“…Now I gotta cut loose, Footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes; Please, Louise, pull me off of my knees, Jack, get back, come on before we crack, Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose…” -- Lyrics from ‘Footloose’ by Kenny Loggins
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — There will be dancing in the streets but not by Martha and the Vandellas or David Bowie and Mick Jagger. The dancing will be done by the cast of Penn State New Kensington’s fall stage production of “Footloose: The Musical,” and the ‘street’ will be the expanded proscenium of the newly renovated Forum Theatre.
Director James Baker selected a troupe of talented hoofers and crooners to tackle the fast-paced theatrical performance. The cast, currently in rehearsal, features Alex Conte as Ren McCormack; Kaylyn Farneth as Ethel McCormack; Jake Grantz as Reverend Shaw Moore; Beth Minda as Vi Moore; Cassidy Milberger as Ariel Moore; Phoenix Izzo as Lulu Warnicker; Sam Horgan as Wes Warnicker; Jakob Hayes as Willard Hewitt; and Becky Minda as Rusty.
“Footloose” is the campus directorial debut for Baker, a 2012 Penn State and campus graduate, who took over for veteran director Bill Mitas after the theatre instructor retired a year ago after directing “The Toxic Avenger.” The choreographer is Julianne Motosicky, who graduated with Baker and served as the choreographer under Mitas for the past two years. The musical director is Paul Yeater.
The campus production will run for three days, Friday to Sunday, Nov. 4 to 6, in the newly renovated Forum Theatre. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. for the Friday and Saturday shows and 1 p.m. for the Sunday matinee. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $8 for students with ID. For more information, contact Baker at 412-848-5778 or [email protected].
In conjunction with the stage production, the Office of Development is sponsoring a “Meet and Greet” before Friday’s opening night. The 6 p.m. reception features light refreshments and members of the cast and crew, including Baker, Motosicky and Yeater. Reservations are required for the reception. To RSVP for the reception and reserved seating for the show, contact Tina Sluss at 724-334-6056 or [email protected].
Actor to director
Baker is familiar with campus stage productions and working with actors as he acted for four years under Mitas. While earning a bachelor’s degree in communications, Baker was on stage for every campus production. He had the lead or the No. 2 role in seven plays, including Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors," Kenicky in “Grease,” Capt. Walton in "Frankenstein: The Musical," and Princeton in “Avenue Q.” His thespian acumen resulted in numerous awards, including the John W. Oswald Award for Creative and Performing Arts from Penn State and the Best Performer Award from the campus.
In addition to acting chops, the Lower Burrell native received recognition for his directorial work. While still an undergraduate, he directed St. Joseph High School's spring musical "Beauty and the Beast.” The play earned a Gene Kelly Award for “Best Costume Design” from the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. The play was also nominated for “Best Musical.”
During the summer, Baker continued handling the directing duties for the campus’ Kids in College program. He directed two performances of “Aladdin Jr.” One was geared to children in grades 2-5, and the other was designed for youths in grades 6-11. He previously directed “The Little Mermaid” for the summer camp.
“Footloose” from big screen to stage
Based on the 1984 hit movie written by Dean Pitchford and starring Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow, the play is the classical story of youth, rebellion and romance. The musical drama pits rebellious high school students against repressive parents, and liberal big cities against conservative small towns. When Ren McCormack moves from Chicago to a rural Midwestern town, he finds that dancing and rock music, two of his greatest pleasures, are banned. He sets out to rescind, as well as break, the ordinance while earning the admiration of his high school classmates.
“Footloose is a musical filled with love, heart, and open youthful energy, something that we can all use a bit of in our sometimes challenging and adult lives,” said Baker, a product of Burrell High School. “It is a story about dancing, but it’s also about a family and a town that is grieving a great loss. It’s a story about how fear and grief can cause us to control the things around us, when what we really need is to let go.”
The play opened on Broadway in 1998 and ran for 709 performances. It received four Tony Award nominations. The musical adheres to the film, which is based somewhat on events that took place in the small, rural and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.
Ren McCormack: Alex Conte
Ethel McCormack: Kaylyn Farneth
Reverend Shaw Moore: Jake Grantz
Vi Moore: Beth Minda
Ariel Moore: Cassidy Milberger
Lulu Warnicker: Phoenix Izzo
Wes Warnicker: Sam Horgan
Coach Dunbar: Ian Callendar
Eleanor Dunbar: Moriah Kro
Rusty: Becky Minda
Urleen: Rachele Gorgovich
Wendy Jo: Rhianna Davis
Chuck Cranston: Jake Klukaszewski
A cop: Steven Montalbano
Betty Blast (roller skate): Courtney Cambal
Willard Hewitt: Jakob Hayes
Principal Clark: Lauren Kulikowski
Cowboy Bob: Jimmy Gaschler
Ensemble: Julia Singleton, Isabelle Horgan, Zack Conte, Vernon Gould
Dancers: Brian Ulizo, Rachele Gorgovich, Isabel Horgan, Rhianna Davis, Becky Minda, Moriah Kro, Lauren Kulikowski