Please, Louise

Let's give the boy a pass

My friend Michelle met me at Desert Stages the other night to watch its production of Footloose. I think Michelle looks exactly like Jodie Foster during her short-brown-hair period, and when we're out together and I get bored, I like to pretend Michelle is Jodie Foster and that I'm friends with a famous Oscar-winning actress.

I got a lot of Jodie-time that night because I was very, very bored watching this interminable production. I've seen worse musicals, but never one performed by so many untalented people — nearly three dozen of them! — at once. This Footloose is so dreadful that nothing I can write about it will do justice to its awfulness; I'd like to tell you, "You'll just have to see it to believe it," but then you may go buy tickets to this thing, and we'd both be very sorry if that happened. Trust me.

Footloose is, of course, the popular stage musical based on the equally popular '80s movie in which Kevin Bacon kicked up his heels and got to make out with Lori Singer. In most versions of this musical, there are actual singers, dancers, and musicians to tell the story about a town in the Midwest where dancing is verboten. Desert Stages went a different route and hired one singer, one dancer, and no band at all. Instead, director Antonio Villarreal filled the stage with teenagers who shriek and wriggle to sluggish, pre-recorded backing tracks. The best thing about the music is that the volume is turned down so low it's barely audible, so that was nice. Apparently, this is so we can clearly hear each of the more than 4,000 bum notes the cast hits while hollering the program's score. (Further assistance is provided by body mics so huge that the players all appear to be wearing neck braces and Tootsie Pops tucked behind their ears.)

High school musical? No, just another lousy 
Footloose.
High school musical? No, just another lousy Footloose.

Details

Continues through July 29. Call 480-483-1664.
Desert Stages Theatre, 4720 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale

Jimmy Shoffman is featured as Ren, the Midwest's hairiest teenager, who actually has some decent dance moves — two of them, to be precise, which he is unfortunately made to repeat in every one of the poky, uninspired musical numbers in this overlong show. The rest of the cast is handed mostly kick-ball-changes and fist-shaking to perform as dance moves, although several of the youngsters were also quite good at hopping in place while screaming. I thought things couldn't get any worse until Angela Yates started shouting the chorus to "Let's Hear It For the Boy" as Brian McCarthy faked an epileptic seizure while surrounded by 15-year-olds dressed as middle-aged farmers, which caused me to have to close my eyes for a while, so I can't tell you much about what happened next.

Not every player was hopeless. Terry Helland, who plays the John Lithgow role, has a nice singing voice and a pleasant stage presence, although I probably missed some of the nuances of his performance because I was so busy feeling sorry for him for having to appear in this appalling mess. Villarreal is a splendid dancer; his routine during "Holding Out for a Hero" (a song I'd forgotten how much I hate) was quite spectacular, even if he was dressed in Army fatigues, which I guess was a subtle reminder that a lot of people think "our boys overseas" are heroic for blowing up people for not being Christian. Villarreal's other blunders include casting himself as Cowboy Bob in Act Two's opening number and clogging the stage with dozens of teens, who stand around whispering "rutabaga, rutabaga" to one another while the other performers are trying to act.

Eventually, these faux-thespian crowds dispersed and their cacophony ended, which was the nicest thing that had happened to me since last Tuesday, when I was told that Mark Turvin has finally decided to stop pretending to be a theater critic, thus leaving more legroom for the rest of us who are pretending to be theater critics. I drove home and got into bed, where I had nightmares all night long about hirsute teens chasing me in circles, trying to force me to do the macarena with Jodie Foster to Bonnie Tyler records.

The memory of my nightmare will eventually fade, but I'm not so sure about the experience of having seen this terrifying production of Footloose, which seems likely to linger like a bad cold for months to come. I'll keep you posted.

 
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4 comments
Nicole
Nicole

Mr. Pela, do you even like theatre? I just seems to me that you don't, at least not much. Granted, I didn't see this show, but I have seen a lot of bad shows (and good ones) throughout my theatre-going experience in the valley. Just because you get a forum where you get to bitch to your heart's content, doesn't mean that you should. These kids in this show and not paid performers, they are learning this craft (like the previous poster stated). They don't all have aspirations of going to Broadway or elsewhere, most of them will probably just spend the rest of their lives doing this for fun. For FUN. Something that you obviously need to find in your life, because it's obvious that seeing theatre performances is not fun for you. So how about you find yourself another hobby...maybe go to the gym or something. You can rag on people's incorrect squat form and make fun of out of shape people.

fellow actor
fellow actor

Wow...I have never read a review as mean and totally insesitive as that. You do know that this is a community theater...and that a large amount of the cast were young kids? How does anyone learn how to perform, except to do it through community theater. Those actors were performing. They were doing something they love and have a passion for...no one forced them to do this show. Whatever choices this cast, production staff, director made...they were planned with the talent that was sent to them.

I think you need to try and use constructive critics for a show of this calibur. Try and find something nice to say, without bringing up something else that was bad. Sure, you can say what your likes and dislikes are....but there was no need to be nasty....You might have broken someones dream...a raw talent...that was still trying to learn his or her craft....I say .."Mama says...If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Thx

Joanna
Joanna

As someone who has seen multiple productions at Desert Stages including the current "Footloose," I can tell you that, without a doubt, your review is completely off the mark. If you had any kind of respectable background in musical theatre, you'd be able to recognize talent when it appears before you on the stage, as it does at Desert Stages, rather than calling the cast a group of at least "three dozen untalented people."I have seen the show multiple times now and thoroughly enjoyed it each and every time. You say that the show has only "one singer, one dancer ... and is filled with teenagers who shriek and wriggle to sluggish, pre-recorded backing tracks." I say that all of the leads, as well as many of the ensemble members whose voices I could clearly hear, all sing very well, on pitch and with the kind of energy the show exudes. As for the many dance numbers throughout the show, the choreography looks too complicated at times, making it noticeable which actors are dancers and which are not, but at no time, in watching the show, did I feel like I was being forced to witness "children hopping in place while screaming," as you so eloquently put it.Oh, and the bar scene for "Let's Hear It for the Boy" happened to be one of my favorite parts of the show: Willard's "epileptic seizure" was meant to be comical and it was. I suppose you were paying too much attention to your Jodie Foster date to realize the significance of the scene as being humorous and playful. Did you also miss the point that most of the show is set in the Midwest so, naturally, the actors should be wearing cowboy boots, overalls, etc., which also add to the humor of the whole situation: Willard realizing he can't dance and Rusty still loving him despite his flaws.A few of your points about the production may be true (belting the music at times to pre-recorded music), but on the whole, you should rethink your expertise in reviewing plays if you feel in any way that Desert Stage's "Footloose" is nothing but a bore and a nightmare.Let's hear it for the cast! And "Please, Louise," find a new day job!

EIleen
EIleen

Mr. Perla, Your so called "review" of the production of Footloose had me wondering if you were actually at the correct theatre or were you too busy staring at your Jodie Foster look-a-alike? In any case, your lame review was off course. I had the pleasure of seeing the show and cannot stop raving about the talented group of performers that took to the stage. You cannot possibly have an ear or eye for talent because these performers were talented beyond words. The show has been selling out nightly, which is an indication that many people in the Valley know talent when they see it. Maybe you should hang out with them rather than your "Jodie Foster look-a-alike" dream date - you may just begin to appreciate quality theatre. I also take offense to you referring to someones dancing as an "epileptic seizure". As a teacher of students with Special Needs, I can tell you that having seizures is not a laughing matter. Shame on you for using this analogy! In closing, as a true American, I do believe that "our boys oversees" are heroic - but not for the reason you felt compelled to put in print. Eileen of Phoenix

 
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