If you go…
When: July 1–16 at 8 p.m.
Where: SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre
Cost: $12–$16 for adults; $10–$14 for children
“Footloose” runs in Utah Valley’s blood.
From the literal connection of the 1984 film being partially filmed in Utah — including the iconic dance scene with Kevin Bacon in the Lehi Roller Mills — to the safe Christian community, Utah County residents can easily fall head over boots for the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre’s summer production of “Footloose: The Musical.”
“Footloose” tells the story of Ren McCormack, an out-of-towner from a big city, who moves to the small town of Bomont. After discovering the city’s strong censorship and laws prohibiting dancing, Ren gets his fellow students to help fight the law, including the local reverend’s daughter Ariel Moore.
The SCERA’s family-friendly musical version stays true to the 1984 film Utah Valley is well acquainted with, but the musical delves deeper into the motivations of the characters and exposes more emotions through the dance-heavy performance, according to Director Jeremy Showgren.
“Characters that come off as black and white in the movie are now in full color in terms of getting to know them,” Showgren said.
This is something Jake Thompson, who plays Ren, realized early on in rehearsals.
“Expect the unexpected,” Thompson said. “The very first thing that I picked up on is the characters in the musical are way more expressive and energized than in the movie.”
Thompson describes Ren as more than a angsty bad boy. He’s a young man with an “explosive personality” who is philosophical and strategic. Part of the energy is stemmed from the dance numbers, which Thompson says has been challenging since he doesn’t consider himself a naturally gifted dancer.
“Doing this has been extremely eye-opening in the sense that I can feel how the dance and the movements and expressions can help express yourself and release a lot of energy that you can’t typically release,” Thompson said.
As Showgren chose his “Footloose” cast, he knew he needed actors who could create characters that the audience would immediately fall in love with — which he found in Thompson — but he also knew dance was going to drive the show.
“In a lot of musicals, dancing happens when people are feeling like dance. In this one, that happens, but it is also a major plot point. It was crucial to me that we made sure that the dance was amazing in order to drive the show.”
In order to best tell the story, Showgren knew he needed technically trained dancers — so he created the dance core and got Tyne Valgardson Crockett, co-founder of the Utah film and dance competition MOVE, to choreograph the show.
“Characters that come off as black and white in the movie are now in full color in terms of getting to know them.” — Jeremy Showgren, director
“I wanted a dance core because I wanted to attract dancers who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in dance theater,” Showgren said. “I wanted to get the best of the best. I knew if they knew their primary role would be dance, they would come out.”
Showgren was also able to find another lead who has “most beautiful voices that (he) had the chance to work with” and happened to have the dance talent necessary to play the leading lady, Ariel, Reverend Moore’s defiant daughter. Kelsea Kocherhans was cast as Ariel, a character she didn’t initially relate to.
“When I first got the part I was kind of nervous because I didn’t think I related to her because at first glance she seems like a crazy teenager that is rebellious,” Kocherhans said. “Then as I got to know the character more I came to learn that she has more emotion than I realized and I related to her more.”
Kocherhans, whose father was an extra in the 1984 film, initially decided to audition for “Footloose” so that she could combine her 10 years of dancing training, which she had to give up for theater, with her theater training.
“The reason I cast her is she brought such a warmth and a tenderness to the character that I’ve never seen before,” Showgren said.
The show is something everyone in Utah Valley can relate to whether it be for nostalgia purposes or for standing up for one’s beliefs.
“(It) is kind of eerie how timely the story is right now where you have an outsider questioning what has always been handed down as truth,” Showgren said. “I think it’s important to investigate for yourself and come to your own conclusions about things, especially when it comes to the arts.”
“Footloose” is showing Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July 16. Shows begin at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $12–$16 for adults and $10–$14 for children/seniors. Purchase tickets online at scera.org or call the SCERA at (801) 225–ARTS.