When a young rebel moves to a small middle-American town where dance is forbidden, he creates a movement to defy the strict edict of the local pastor by organizing a rock ‘n’ roll dance.
The story of Footloose is well known to fans of the original 1984 movie that launched Kevin Bacon into stardom, the 2011 remake or the numerous stage productions that have followed.
Jenny Mayer knows the stage musical version of Footloose well; she was a member of Original Kids when she appeared in two separate versions as a young girl.
Mayer, who has been directing for about six years, is back with Original Kids Theatre Company as it brings Footloose back to the Spriet Family Theatre at Covent Garden Market from Jan. 11-15.
“That was my final show with Original Kids, so it’s a special one for me,” she said. “Our choreographer, Genna Goodwin, was in it as well. Genna and I met at Original Kids, we’ve stayed great friends . . . so it’s fun to be together on the other side seeing an awesome bunch of high schoolers doing what we did once.”
Footloose is a show, Mayer said, that has something “everyone can relate to” with its story of high schoolers who are feeling tied down, restricted by the adult authority in town.
It also details the pressures the reverend and his wife are coping with, along with those the mother of lead character Ren McCormack is dealing with, trying to fit in as a recently separated, now single mother.
As Mayer said, “There’ s a lot going on, a lot people can relate to.”
Jacob Collier is playing Ren in the production and while he understands what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in a world that often ignores the views of young people, he is coming at Footloose without any preconceived ideas around the story.
That’s because he’s never seen the movie, neither the new one nor the original.
“I came in with a pretty blank slate. I think it was cool to dive into this script. On the surface level it just seems a movie musical, but there is so much you can dig into which is really cool,” Collier said. “I could absolutely relate to it. There is the basis of being the rebellious teenager. I’m able to relate to not the specifics, but the overall struggle with being a teenager.”
Mayer said her knowledge of the story made directing the production easier. However, she added she had to be careful she didn’t just come in and redo the same story she was a part of the last two times she was in it.
Fortunately, she said, she has been able to discover new things about the tale.
“When you’re an actor you kind of get stuck on your one path,” Mayer said. “As director you have to see everyone’s path and see how it all comes together. It’s nice to have that different perspective.”
As someone who hasn’t seen the movies, Collier might offer a somewhat slanted comparison, but he’s quick to say one thing the musical has over the theatrical versions is the music.
The story is a musical of course, but it has the added weight of the cast behind those songs.
“Adding a full cast for some of these songs is so cool to hear,” he said. “Being in the same room as 36 people having a blast singing and dancing is so much of a different experience.”