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‘Footloose’ impresses with professional dancing, acting, singing

This year’s open-cast musical, “Footloose,” produced by Hillel Theater Group, featured a cast of dedicated and convincing actors in its opening night performance on Thursday, March 30 in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater.

“Footloose” follows high school student Ren (Justin Chimoff ’20) from his hometown of Chicago to his new home in Bomont, a small rural town where dancing has been outlawed. Ren, with the help of the preacher’s daughter, Ariel (Adina Jacobson ’20), as well as other classmates, petitions the city council to repeal the law and allow for a senior dance.

Chimoff and Jacobson had chemistry, drawing the audience into the interpersonal relationships and growth of the characters throughout the show. The two really shone in their second-act duet “Almost Paradise,” in which both showed off their vocal range and capabilities.

Bryan McNamara ’19 perfectly embodied the role of Reverend Moore, capturing the strict father/preacher who only wants what is best for his daughter and the town. Ariel’s three closest friends, Urleen (Caitlin Crane-Mokowitz ’20), Wendy Jo (Jessie Eichinger ’17) and Rusty (Emily Arkin ’20) added gorgeous harmonies while also excelling in individual solos.

The sole distraction throughout the performance was that the microphones occasionally cut out, a problem that is well-documented in the SCC Theater.

The dances, choreographed by Lisa Petrie ’17 (layout editor of The Brandeis Hoot), were masterfully choreographed, and the dancers brilliantly executed sometimes challenging sequences. During the ending scene, the entire cast came together for a final group number, which combined intricate dancing and strong singing.

The set, designed by Ivy Zhirong Gu ’17 and Brenda Shen ’18, was a simple two-level design, comprised of the main stage and a platform spanning the width of the upstage, which allowed for efficient and unobtrusive scene changes throughout the show. While overall simple, the set was still striking, with exposed two-by-fours buttressing the interior of the structure and two staircases on either side leading from the top level to the main stage level.

The musicians, directed by Ben Eisenstein ’20, who provided the orchestration for the show, meshed as a group and provided the necessary musical backdrop for the production. The violinist (Joel Herman ’20, who also served as the saxophonist and the assistant music director) added an unexpected flair to the rock-centric music created and sustained by the driving guitar (Bill Buonocore) and bass line (Amy Clark ’19).

Rachel Haskins ’17 designed a simple but sophisticated lighting scheme, which added to the overall presentation. Throughout the show, the design enhanced the production by successfully lighting the performers, but there were also moments of added layers of intricacy. In the opening scene, a car crash ends with two “headlights” shining into the audience, created by cans on lighting trees at the front of the stage facing the audience.

Overall, the show was well produced and presented, which offered a fun, carefree experience filled with talented actors, singers, dancers and musicians.

“Footloose” will be playing throughout the weekend in the SCC Theater, so you can still catch the show on Saturday, April 1 at 8 p.m. or Sunday, April 2 at 12:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. Tickets are $3 with a Brandeis ID.

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