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The Chariot

The student news site of Troy High School

The Chariot

The student news site of Troy High School

The Chariot

Our Time to Dance

The Chariot reviews the Troy High Theatre Ensemble’s latest musical, “Footloose.”
Eddie Angers
The cast of Footloose during a dance number.

The Troy Theatre Ensemble opens with “Footloose” at the Troy High School Auditorium on March 1 and 2, with further performances on March 3, 8, 9 and 10. 

The music begins to play and the stage comes alive with the first musical number, “Footloose.” The actors enter and sing and dance to the tune, the stage covered in all manner of colored light, light beams from the top of the stage shifting and taking on many hues, joining the dancers as they kick off their Sunday shoes and lose their blues. The dance gives way to a small scene, where, with the music still playing, we catch a glimpse of Ren McCormack, played by sophomore Omar Atasi, with his friends in a bustling dance club. Ren has something to say, and his friends are dismayed at the news: Ren’s father walked out, and now he and his mother, Ethel McCormack, played by senior Abby Bolas, have to leave their home in Chicago and live with Ren’s aunt and uncle. His concerned friends ask him where he’s moving, and Ren assures them his new home will be hip and well-known, a place people are absolutely flocking to: Bomont. For a moment, everything seems to stop; his friends, the other club-goers, and me, sitting in the audience, all have the same question: “Where the hell is Bomont?” 

Omar Atasi and Abby Bolas take the stage as Ren and Ethel McCormack. (Eddie Angers)

We soon find out that, at least for Ren, Bomont is located in the depths of hell. Despite the town being led by the stalwart and ever pious Reverend Shaw Moore, played by senior Mark Hong, it manages to be the worst nightmare for a boy who cannot stand still. There are no malls, nightclubs or any places to hang out at all, really. Worst of all for Ren, who always used to dance the night away with all his friends in Chicago, is one local law: a complete ban of dancing within the town’s borders. From the moment Ren learns of it during his unfortunate first day of school, the musical follows Ren’s journey to bring dancing back to Bomont, and to

heal the wounds that caused Bomont to become so paranoid in the first place.

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As the lead role, Ren is quite a dynamic character. Despite having recently lost his father and displaced from his home in Chicago, he has to maintain an upbeat attitude to lead his classmates against Bomont’s anti-dancing law. To balance those roles, Atasi says, “I like to put myself in his shoes, in what he’s going through. For example, he lost his dad, he just moved, I try to tell myself that that’s happening to me in real life.” 

Atasi achieves that balance quite well, always managing a snappy comeback or sarcastic quip to his opposition, whilst still being able to be charismatic and bright when it comes to uniting his classmates to his cause. His energy is on full display in “I Can’t Stand Still,” which Atasi describes as “when the audience first gets to really know who I am. They’ll see me dancing for the first time, showing that energy and then talking to the principal so carelessly after that scene happens.” And energy he does show. Atasi rides the shockwave of that original introduction throughout the whole show, shaking Bomont to its very core.  

Reverend Shaw Moore, however, is not fond of Ren’s revolution. Hong puts their dynamic quite succinctly: “Ren is everything he [Shaw] fears.”

“Ren is everything he [Shaw] fears.”

— Mark Hong, senior

Mark Hong and Omar Atasi as Reverend Shaw Moore and Ren McCormack. (Eddie Angers)

As the most influential member of the town council, he is the one person who needs to be convinced in order to restore dancing to the town. Hong’s portrayal of Shaw Moore is perfectly stubborn. He seems as if his stance will never move, and he talks about his ideas with conviction. At the same time, however, Hong manages to balance that hardness with his portrayals of Shaw when there are no others around to see him especially during his solo scenes and recurring song, “Heaven Help Me.” We see that beneath his unmoving exterior is a man who truly wants the best for Bomont, and struggles every day with whether or not he is doing the right thing. Hong describes, “He sees himself as the protector of the town and I just sort of got into that persona of ‘Oh, I need to protect these people, I’m the one that’s responsible.’” 

Hong excellently portrays the mixture of conviction, worry and responsibility with a strong stage presence and firm dialogue. During “On Any Sunday” at the very beginning of the show, Hong executes Shaw’s sermon perfectly. One could easily forget they’re in the auditorium instead of sitting in one of those pews, spending their Sunday morning with Bomont’s churchgoers. 

Shaw Moore’s worries extend beyond just the town’s struggles. His daughter, Ariel Moore, played by freshman Catherine Samuelsen, always stays out late and hangs out with people Moore disapproves of, like her delinquent boyfriend, Chuck Cranston, played by freshman James Christiani. Ariel is a rebel through and through, taking a liking to Ren as soon as he shows that he’s willing to stand up to her father for what he believes in.

Catherine Samuelson stuns as Ariel Moore. (Eddie Angers)

As for Samuelsen’s take on playing Ariel, “Some of the stuff is kind of awkward to at first, but it’s just understanding that all of it’s all acting.” She comments specifically on Ariel’s interactions with Moore, explaining, “There’s a lot of yelling I have to do with Mark, and, you know, I felt really bad at first because he’s so nice! I don’t want to yell at him!” 

She may not have enjoyed yelling at him, but the result was undeniably entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoyed the attitude she brought. Every time Samuelsen and Hong were on the stage together, I wondered just how Ariel would snap back at Shaw’s latest lecture. 

As for Samuelsen’s showmanship, she is nothing short of incredible. Atasi says that “every time she’s on the stage, it’s a perfect performance.”

Samuelsen describes her prior experience, “I’ve actually been doing musical theatre stuff since I was like six years old. My mom would put me in so many summer camps. I’ve done maybe like eight shows. A lot of community theatre.”

Her time spent in theatre definitely shows through her effortless movement between acting, dancing and singing, which is prevalent especially in “The Girl Gets Around.” 

Ren and Ariel aren’t the only teenagers in Bomont who want some change. Willard Hewitt, a dense and goofy teen played by senior Patrick Mahoney, is Ren’s close friend throughout the play, guiding him through the strangeness of Bomont and spouting advice from his eccentric mother. Mahoney never fails to impress with his humor as Willard, with Atasi describing Mahoney as “one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met.”

That’s no understatement. Mahoney handles antics in a way that means there’s never a dull moment when he’s on stage. He never drops his act, even when he’s belting out tunes in “Mama Says” or busting some moves at the end of “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” Mahoney’s talent lies in how he can do everything in character. If you told me he acted like Willard all the time, I might believe you. 

If you told me he acted like Willard all the time, I might believe you. 

— Eddie Angers

Mahoney and Atasi have great chemistry on stage, too. Atasi describes it, “It’s so easy to play off of what he’s doing because he does it so well.” The pair is like a well composed drum and bass song; Atasi lays down a groove, moving the plot forward, while Mahoney provides explosive fills and beats that make the already enticing groove irresistible to follow. 

Ren and Ariel aren’t the only couple in the show: Willard and Rusty, played by freshman Quin VanAmberg, are another important duo in “Footloose.” Rusty is Ariel’s dramatic friend, whose awkward crush on Willard makes for some great moments of comic relief between the two. VanAmberg knows the exact tone to reply to Mahoney’s lines, even when they are, to be sincere, a bit strange. In the end, the awkward couple is a delight on stage, and VanAmberg most effectively communicates the strength of their relationship, despite its awkward nature, in “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” where her dynamic and powerful singing shows just how much Rusty really cares for Willard, despite his flaws. I enjoyed the number so much, that later I listened to another recording of it online later. The online version hit all the right notes, but it was a far cry from the emotion and intensity of VanAmberg’s performance. If for nothing else, come see “Footloose” for “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” VanAmberg makes it an incredible number. 

Grace Haugk, Mark Hong and Catherine Samuelson as the Moore family. (Eddie Angers)

“Footloose” is full of great scenes and numbers. One of my favorites is “I’m Free/Heaven Helps the Man.” Atasi really takes the lead in that number, and as the finale of act one, it perfectly marks the rise in conflict between Ren and Moore. At the end of “I’m Free/Heaven Helps the Man” the tension between Ren and Shaw is almost as thick as Willard’s skull. There are also plenty of other excellent supporting characters, like Vi Moore, played by senior Grace Haugk, who sings absolutely beautifully alongside Samuelsen and Bolas in “Learning to be Silent.”

 Samuelsen describes “Footloose” quite well: “A lot of dancing, a lot of loud music, and a really good story.” It strikes all the points a musical should; so, come on down to Bomont. You won’t regret it. 

Tickets can be purchased here.

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About the Contributor
Eddie Angers
Eddie Angers, Staff Reporter
Eddie Angers is a junior and a Staff Reporter for The Chariot. He joined The Chariot for more opportunities to write and for more chances to interact with his community. In his free time, he enjoys consuming many forms of media, including music, movies and most of all, video games (which he believes are art in their own right). He also enjoys writing, drawing and growing his CD collection (so he can rip them and listen to them on his laptop later). Some of his favorite CDs are: Artaud by Pescado Rabioso, The Great Escape by Blur, Canta Mientras Puedas by The Legendary Pink Dots and Kid A by Radiohead.
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