Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Broadway Center Stage: Footloose
Kennedy Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Royale, Escaped Alone and Fences

J. Quinton Johnson
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Most of the audience in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater responded enthusiastically to the Broadway Center Stage production of Footloose, which continues through October 14, but the show seems under-rehearsed and—despite the participation of original Broadway director Walter Bobbie—comes across as slapdash, not up to the standard set by earlier productions in the series of semi-staged musicals.

Bobbie and Dean Pitchford co-wrote the book for the 1998 musical, based on Pitchford's screenplay for the original 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, and Pitchford also wrote the lyrics to Tom Snow's music. Of course, the show also includes the famous pop hits from the movie, starting with the title song.

The story is schematically simple. In a nonspecific recent past (David C. Woolard's costumes are all over the place), high school student Ren McCormick (J. Quinton Johnson) is growing up in Chicago, where he can let off steam with his friends at dance clubs. After Ren's father abandons the family, Ren and his mother Ethel (Judy Kuhn) move to the isolated town of Bomont to stay with relatives.

As Ren tries to find his place in this rural community, he learns that a civic leader, the Reverend Shaw Moore (Michael Park), is behind a town ordinance that outlaws dancing in town. Why? He blames dancing (and drinking, pot smoking, and filthy rock lyrics) for the deaths of four Bomont teens in a car crash after a dance some years earlier. Ren finds an ally in Moore's rebellious daughter Ariel (Isabelle McCalla), which makes him a target of Ariel's sleazy boyfriend Chuck (Joshua Logan Alexander).

Johnson is an electric talent, which helps move things along, but several fine actors are struggling with roles that don't give them much to do. Tony Award nominees Judy Kuhn and Rebecca Luker, as Ren's mother and Moore's wife respectively, spend most of their time dealing with difficult matters, feeling sad and aggrieved until the finale. Park is stolid in a role that could use more fireworks. Peter McPoland and Nicole Vanessa Ortiz shine in the supporting comic roles of Ren's gawky friend Willard and Ariel's sassy friend Rusty.

Choreographer Spencer Liff also has Broadway credits, but his work here is serviceable rather than memorable. Several of the dance numbers look more like calisthenics routines than like people breaking loose.

Paul Tate dePoo III's scenic design centers on metal scaffolding that holds the seven musicians, conducted from the keyboard by Sonny Paladino, rising above a changing configuration of abstract metal panels and cubes. He also created the projections, which range from the interior of a Chicago disco to a high school football field, a honky-tonk, and a diner with waiters on roller skates.

Kennedy Center
Broadway Center Stage: Footloose
October 9th - 14th, 2019
Stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
Based on the original screenplay by Dean Pitchford
Music by Tom Snow
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Additional music by Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, and Jim Steinman
Ren McCormack: J. Quinton Johnson
Ethel McCormack: Judy Kuhn
Reverend Shaw Moore: Michael Park
Vi Moore: Rebecca Luker
Ariel Moore: Isabelle McCalla
Lulu Warnicker: Rema Webb
Wes Warnicker: Michael X. Martin
Coach Roger Dunbar: Michael Mulheren
Rusty: Nicole Vanessa Ortiz
Urleen: Grace Slear
Wendy Jo: Lena Owens
Chuck Cranston: Joshua Logan Alexander
Lyle: Jess LeProtto
Travis: J. Savage
Eleanor Dunbar: Rema Webb
Cop: Maximilian Sangerman
Betty Blast: Rema Webb
Willard Hewitt: Peter McPoland
Jeter: Jamar Williams
Bickle: Nick Martinez
Garvin: Gregory Liles
Cowboy Bob: Maximilian Sangerman
Ensemble: Brandon Burks, Claire Crause, Michele Lee, Jess LeProtto, Gregory Liles, Nick Martinez, J. Savage, Bethany Tesarck, Tiernan Tunnicliffe, Jamar Williams
Directed by Walter Bobbie
Choreographer: Spencer Liff
Music director: Sonny Paladino
Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or