GSHS production of ‘Footloose’ is all about having fun and cutting loose

Scenes from the Footloose dress rehearsal at Glenwood Springs High School. The show opens Friday night, Feb. 28.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Scenes from the Footloose dress rehearsal at Glenwood Springs High School.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

If there were one word to describe the 1980s, “upbeat” might be one of them.

That’s what Glenwood Springs High School stage director Kate McRaith was after when she and her team selected the stage adaptation of the classic 1984 movie, “Footloose,” for this year’s production.

With a cast of 50 high school students, McRaith was also looking for something high-energy that would appeal to the young cast, and with which the likely audience could relate.

“This just seemed like a really fun one to do, with some great music that most of the people are going to know,” McRaith said.

The GSHS production of Footloose opens at 7 p.m. (doors at 6:30) Friday night in the school’s Jeannie Miller Theatre, with shows again Saturday and next weekend.

If you Go …

Who: Glenwood Springs High School

What: Musical production of “Footloose”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28 and 29, and again March 6 and 7 (plus a 2 p.m. matinee March 7)

Where: Jeannie Miller Theatre, Glenwood Springs High School

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 students and children, available online, or at the door.

“Another thing I always try to do is find something I think is going to be fun and happy for the students, because life can be pretty rough and super stressful at times,” McRaith said. “At the end of a long day at school, the last thing you want to do is something terribly serious.”

At the same time, there are some powerful social themes in Footloose about dealing with pain, the healing process and bringing people of different beliefs together.

Footloose tells the story of teenager Ren McCormack who moves from Chicago to a small western town where dancing is prohibited, until he convinces the townsfolk otherwise.

GSHS junior Johnathan Webster plays the part of Ren, which he said is ideal, given his own ’80s alter-ego.

“I’ve always been a fan of the ’80s aesthetic, so being able to put myself in that role, and being practically who I would be if I were a teenager in the ’80s, is really fun,” Webster said.

Senior Molly Hancock plays Ren’s mother, Ethel McCormack, who’s hardly mentioned at all in the movie version of Footloose, but has a significant role in the stage production.

“She’s a strong, single mother,” Hancock said. “I really like this role, because she drives part of the storyline, even though she’s not a major character.

“She’s also really fun to play, because she’s kind of fun and goofy, and not too serious, or too dramatic,” she said. “That’s kind of the way I like to act.”

And, junior Jenny Henry plays the part of Ariel Moore, the rebellious daughter of town preacher, the Rev. Shaw Moore, who falls in love with Ren.

“I wasn’t very familiar with the movie before, so it’s been a really fun thing to learn all about the show and the role itself,” Henry said. “It’s also my first time having a lead part in high school. Ariel is really sassy and rebellious, so that’s fun to do on stage.”

The show is choreographed by Emily Ipsen, along with GSHS students Megan Quinn and Skylar McLaren.

“They’re all really sweet, and really incredible choreographers,” Henry said. “They’ve given us some really cool movements to work with, and it’s definitely been a challenge.”

Musical director for the production is GSHS choir director Shanti Gruber.

McRaith noted that Footloose is also loosely based on a true story, about a small town in the northeastern United States where dancing was forbidden until the local high school class fought to have a prom dance.

Aside from the stage case, the show includes a technical crew of about 20, handling sound, lights, makeup and stage sets.

This is McRaith’s 11th year directing the GSHS student musical, which is a tradition going back to the late Jeannie Miller for whom the school’s theater is named.

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