Footloose at Peoria's Arizona Broadway Theatre -- A Good Thing to Cut, but Not from Your Schedule

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I guess Footloose definitely merits inclusion in this summer's Festival of Uncomfortable Truths -- for example, if you work too hard as a religious leader, you risk neglecting and alienating your family to the extent that your daughter takes up with someone who'll beat her for trying to break up with him. Yikes! I did not remember all that tsuris from the movie (and there's going to be a new one!).

Nevertheless, Arizona Broadway Theatre's current production of the stage musical version of Footloose is mostly just perky, polished, and fun, and the leads, played by David Errigo, Jr. and Jessica Kaufman, are adorable, fiery kids with great chemistry -- something I love to see and don't see enough.

Their voices are also terrific, both separately and together, and you can say the same about the entire cast, especially Jacqueline Rez as Rusty (you know, the girlfriend of Willard, the guy who can't dance until the "Let's Hear It for the Boy" montage). Rez is fierce, cute, smart, and unafraid to own the stage when it's her time.

Director Joseph Martinez, who's proved a reliable hitmaker for ABT, has everybody completely committed to what they're doing every minute. I get the feeling the cast is on the verge of dropping from exhaustion every time the lights go out, because they're giving us everything when they're on.

Kurtis W. Overby's choreography is smoothly executed and meets the challenge of a show about a place where dancing is forbidden, which comes up as a setting for musicals more often than one might think. And the songs that were newly written for the show by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford mesh nicely with their memorable film soundtrack, with its contributions from Sammy Hagar, Kenny Loggins, Jim Steinman, and Eric Carmen still intact.

ABT's meal servers have the '80s spirit, sporting cute show shirts and even, on some of the waitstaff, red hightop sneakers, in a salute to Ren McCormack, that suspender-wearing weirdo from Chi-town to whom Kevin Bacon introduced us all those years ago, when My Pal the Drama Teacher and I were actual young single women. Sitting beside me at Footloose, she wished for bigger hair and more embarrassing outfits on the stage -- why should these performers escape what we endured? -- but we still had a great time, and I think you will, too.

Footloose continues through Sunday, July 25, at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria. Tickets are $66.50 to $79.50 and include a two-course dinner and drinking water (gratuity not included). Appetizers, other beverages, and cocktails and desserts crafted especially for the show (uh, yes, I really liked my ginger-honey-lemon-flavored Hero and the remainder of my pal's) are available at additional cost.

A portion of proceeds from tonight's performance, Friday, July 16, will go to Arizona Assistance in Health Care, Inc. and Hospice of the Valley as part of ABT's campaign to "Close the Curtain on Cancer." Order tickets here or call 623-776-8400.

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