Keyano Theatre’s ambitious and delightful season continues with the February 17th – 25th production of Footloose: The Musical.  A preview performance on Thursday February 17th was both exhilarating and rivaled that of some Broadway productions.

A light fender bender at an intersection on may way to the theatre, soiled my mood to the point, I second guessed going at all.  I’m so very glad I did.

Within 60 seconds of taking my seat I was smiling and wrapped up in what was happening on stage.  It’s so easy to forget this is community theatre with the calibre of performances the cast brought to the table.  Add a couple of pros behind the scenes helping out, and I thought there had to be more professionals in the cast too.

Very challenging production – Well presented

This musical is rich in choreography, challenging even to Broadway professionals in the vocals and music charts and laden with set changes, lighting and sound cues.  Throughout the evening there are sequences with 15 and 20 people all moving in choreographed dance sequences.  With a lesser director and choreographer, those could have been trainwrecks.  They weren’t.  Kim Hurley, choregrapher, should get a gold medal (and possibly a purple heart) for her work on this production.  There was way what I saw tonight wasn’t the product of some intense rehearsals.  Kim can let me know, but I’ll bet about a month into rehearsals the phrase “What have I gotten myself into” probably occurred to her.

No sign of that thinking tonight tho. The sequences were well thought out, avoided corny moves and really surprised me in more than a few places with their agressive reach.

Under the careful and clearly detail oriented direction of Karen Johnson Diamond, the cast really brought the best of the genre to the stage and were clearly and infectiously having fun. It’s hard not to watch a bunch like this clearly enjoying every minute of their time on the stage, and not enjoy it too.

The story of course brings the 1984 Footloose film to the stage and injects some new numbers alongside many of the familiar tunes from the original motion picture soundtrack.  Seriously, who didn’t have that cassette tape in the 80’s?

Footloose promo

As I looked around the theatre during some of the more familiar numbers, there was lots of foot-tapping, head-nodding and I saw a few folks singing!  Given the nature of the show’s ‘give into the spirit of the dance‘ vibe, I half-expected a few folks to get up and boogie in the aisles.  That didn’t happen, sad to say, but it easily could have!  Maybe  in future performances?  (crosses fingers)

Cast shines with infectious joy

The cast was undeniable very well slotted into their roles and each played with gusto and vigor of professionals I’ve seen much bigger venues.  The lead actors, Éva la Prairie (Ariel Moore) and Mitch Jewkes (Ren McCormack) brought a likeable and charming take on the two roles and clearly had the audience in the palm of their hands early on.


Avery Rex (Rusty) during her feature tune in Footloose: The Musical at Keyano Theatre
Avery Rex (Rusty) during her feature tune in Footloose: The Musical at Keyano Theatre


But there was much to adore elsewhere in the cast as well, one standout for me, was Avery Rex.  Her warmth alongside her exceptional comedic timing was simply a delight to watch and enjoy on the stage.  While normally, a person of her youth can sometimes only find their character when the focus is directly on them, Avery inhabited her role at all times on the stage and that led to some wonderful moments between her and the audience.


Mitch Jewkes (Ren) & Brodie Dransutavicius (Willard) in Footloose: The Musical at Keyano Theatre
Mitch Jewkes (Ren) & Brodie Dransutavicius (Willard) in Footloose: The Musical at Keyano Theatre


Brodie Dransutavicius, as Ren’s new friend Willard, presented his character so faithfully, I began to feel as if the southern accent I was hearing was real.  He delighted the audience repeatedly.  His ability to loosen up and allow the other cast members to move his arms and legs, during his learning to dance sequence, truly brought to mind Scarecrow scenes from the Wizard of Oz!

Another pair who simply cannot go unmentioned include Jason Beck as Rev. Shaw Moore and Dianne Paré as his wife, Vi Moore.  Both had numerous song sequences and breathtaking vocal abilities.  Dianne’s solos were a joy to hear and without exaggeration, I could sit and listen to her sing all day.

One role was only on stage for maybe 2 to 3 minutes but clearly stole the audience’s heart and that was Sheri Reed, as Betty Blast.  Her abilities on roller skates are NOT to be missed!

There were so many special performances and I sadly don’t have time and space to list them all, but big kudos to T.J. Carabeo, Stephanie Ross, and Dylan Thomas-Bouchier who all gave themselves over to the character, in ways big and small, that paid off handsomely for the production as a whole.

After this past year, I am so very grateful that Keyano Theatre can bring us such high quality productions that truly lift your spirits and your mood. Remember I walked into the theatre in a sour mood, but I walked out with a couple of tears on my cheeks and a great big ole’ dumb smile on my face.

If that isn’t a testament to the quality of this production, I can’t imagine what would be.

Go see “Footloose: the Musical” support local theatre, dance in the aisles  (ok, maybe not that one) .. BUY TICKETS HERE.

You’ll have a blast as the genuine joy and fun this cast delivers is “Almost Paradise.”

A Note: Thank you Steph Link

And of special note on this production, Steph Link has been the stage manager at Keyano Theatre since 2012 and this will be her last, as she moves to Edmonton after this production is staged.  Over the years I’ve lived in Fort McMurray, Steph has brought professionalism, a focus on what matters and a deep passion for the arts to her role at Keyano.  We were very blessed to have her as long as we have and I join many others in the community in thanking her, and wishing nothing but the best in the future. We’ll miss you Steph.

Ren & Ariel sing "Almost Paradise" on the train bridge. KEYANO THEATRE FOOTLOOSE THE MUSICAL
Ren & Ariel sing “Almost Paradise” on the train bridge.