FOOTLOOSE at Bucks County Playhouse

by Kevin Korowicki

I may not be correct, but the overall theme to the musical, FOOTLOOSE, appears to be how you act and or react to when you are wrong or have been wronged in the overall drama called life. Bucks County Playhouse, in New Hope, PA, is staging FOOTLOOSE for the next couple weeks, as a substitute show for what was to have been THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY. The premise of FOOTLOOSE is that a young man and his mother are “wronged” by their selfish father/husband; he leaves them to fend for themselves as he goes off to “find himself”. This forces the young man and mother to leave Chicago, a city full of life and energy, for a very small town in Texas to live with relatives. This town is very, very conservative and causes socializing problems for the young teen used to the big city. He feels “wronged” again as he finds out that dancing has been outlawed in the town because of a freak accident which happened five years ago which took the lives of four young, promising teens of the town. One of those teens was the son of a very, very powerful and influential pastor/preacher, who in his grief, gets the town to forbid dancing. Why? Because the teens were dancing at a party, which led to them drinking and doing things that, maybe, as teens they should not do, but did. The four teens are killed in a horrible car accident. The preacher wrongly blames dancing as the start of the teens misfortune and therefore, bands any and all expressions of dance. OK, now we are supposed to have a musical?

From left to right - Brian Lesnick as Willard Hewitt, Joe Naticchione as Jeter, Peter Martino as Bickle, Chris Baron as Ren McCormack and Kyle McClellan as Garvin performing "I'm Free" in Bucks County Playhouse production of FOOTLOOSE.

FOOTLOOSE has a couple of well known “rock” songs in it; obviously, FOOTLOOSE being the one that everyone remembers. It helps when it is the title of the show. The other rock songs you would know if I mentioned them. But the remaining songs in the show seem to be dwarfed by comparison, very forgettable melodies. Therefore, the show is uneven at best. I unfortunately don’t think I am wrong with this observation. Now, when you have this type of set up; you risk much. The well known songs need to be hit out of the ball park because anything less seems unimpressive. And with the forgettable songs, well, they are filler and therefore, not written well and are difficult to sing. The cast of this show had a hard time punching out the rock songs with enough power and energy to get the audience into it and left the audience in a wake of nothingness when performing the lesser songs. This show was set up to fall short. I so wanted to be wrong with my account, but upon interviewing two different couples who attended the show and paid for their tickets, the verdict was sadly the same.

Richard and JoAnne from Princeton Junction, NJ, were first timers at the Playhouse. Richard was uneasy as I asked him how he liked the show. He said he was “enjoying it” but had paused to phase his words carefully. JoAnne, on the other hand, started off by saying “how do I put this in a nice way…” Carl and Elizabeth from Brooklyn, NY, on vacation in New Hope and first time at the Playhouse as well, echoed the New Jersey residents. Elizabeth tried to find the correct words, “the Lead is really great, he seems professional”. Carl, wasn’t so diplomatic. “The opening number was extremely weak”, said Carl and he was “disappointed in the voices”. Both couples seemed to agree that the acting side of this musical was much better than the music/voices. This, in my opinion, goes back to how the show is set up to start. The show seemed like a filler on the schedule. In fact, prior to the show, at the curtain speech, two actors announced that this weekend, they were still going to be performing midnight shows of the Playhouse’s very successful ROCKY HORROR SHOW. Maybe BCP should have just run with a good thing for the week after Halloween, milked the accolades of their triumph with ROCKY HORROR and let FOOTLOOSE dance another time.

Music by Tom Snow (among others)
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford (with additional lyrics by Kenny Loggins) 
Book is by Pitchford and Walter Bobbie
November 6 – 14, 2010
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S. Main Street
New Hope, PA

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