Footloose. Book by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie. Music by Tom Snow and others. Lyrics by Dean Pitchford and Kenny Loggins. Directed by Jordan Kelly. Supa Productions. ANU Arts Centre, September 13 to 28. Tickets $25-$40. Bookings: canberrarep.org.au or 62571950. For dinner and show bookings, call Teatro Vivaldi on 62572718.
A first-time director and a lead actor in his first starring role are among the elements bringing Footloose to the stage for Supa Productions.
The 1998 musical was adapted from the 1984 movie about Ren (played by Angus Murphy), a teenager from Chicago who, after his father leaves, moves with his mother to the small town of Bomont to stay with relatives. Ren has a hard time fitting in at first, although he makes a friend, Willard (Anthony Simeonovic), and is shocked to discover his favourite pastime, dancing, is forbidden in the town. The ban happened at the behest of Reverend Shaw Moore (Tim Stiles), whose son and three other teenagers were killed in a car accident returning from a dance. Ren, who has become friendly with Ariel (Eliza Shephard), Moore's daughter, decides to challenge the minister's stance. The score includes Holding Out for a Hero, Let's Hear It for the Boy and the boppy title number.
Actor and choreographer Jordan Kelly is making his directorial debut with Footloose, working with Nikole Neal as choreographer.
''I wanted Supa to do Footloose for ages,'' Kelly says.
Although he found the original movie ''boring'' he loved the 2011 remake and, especially, the stage musical.
''It gets me every time - it's a great story with lots of cool dancing, something for everyone.''
He says, ''I either wanted to choreograph it or be in it and Supa offered me it.''
Kelly has found directing ''very different to choreography''. Instead of someone else telling him what to do, it's all up to him to make decisions.
''Basically I want to get the story of the characters across … and have more depth of character,'' he says of his vision of the piece. He's also managed to cast actors who are in their teens to play adolescents (which is not always the case).
''We've taken it out of the '80s and made it more modern … making it a bit more relevant.''
Angus Murphy, 19, is playing Ren. It's his first lead role and only his second show: he played a supporting role in West Side Story a few months ago.
''Ren's in a new town, a new scene,'' Murphy says. ''He doesn't know how to act, when he's just being himself he gets put down and bullied. The town needs a scapegoat.''
Murphy started playing the piano at age four but although he's always loved music, he hadn't seen a stage musical until Hairspray last year (he was going to be in it but was forced to pull out after a rugby injury).
And in a very real way, musical theatre has changed his life for the better. He's seen several shows in the past year and become heavily involved in the theatre community in Canberra. He's found a new group of supportive, down-to earth friends, one of whom introduced him to her church.
''There's more to life than going out partying,'' he says.
''I'm much happier and healthier … it's unbelievable, the change.''
Eliza Shephard, 19, plays Ariel, the teenager who rebels against her father while longing for his attention.
''I felt the character was easy to relate to,'' Shephard says.
''My parents were quite strict but wonderfully musical.''
Stiles plays the stern, distant Reverend Moore and Christine Forbes is his wife Vi.
Moore, says Stiles, is ''holding up a strong front, a tough exterior, but is still broken inside from his boy's death. You could play him just as a jerk but I like to bring a bit more realism to the character.''
His big number, Heaven Help Me, reveals Moore's feeling of responsibility to save everyone.
Stiles can relate to being an anxious father with his daughter starting high school next year.
''It's going to start getting scary.''
Forbes says the Moore family feels split, dominated by the reverend's grief.
''He's so wrapped up in it he's forgotten everyone else is hurting as well.'' In Can You Find It In Your Heart, Vi finally confronts her husband and speaks her mind.
All of which might make the show sound a bit heavy, but other elements are lighter, such as the trio of bubbly Rusty (Claudia Teatreault-Perry, 19), ditzy Wendy-Jo (Zoe Priest, 17) and headstrong Urleen (Kirrah Amosa, 19). They figure as a sort of Greek chorus, setting the scene and narrating the story.
But the family drama of the Moores provides some dramatic weight to balance the lighter high-school elements - rivalry, romance, friendship - and it will be up to Kelly and company to bring out both sides.