Subscribe to our Newsletter

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Enter Your Email Below
Peoria Players Theatre
August 5 - 9

By Jarrod Bainter

Footloose, which opened this week at Peoria Players Theatre, is based on the classic 1984 film where the city boy, Ren, moves to hick town of Beaumont where it is a crime, as in literally against the law of the town, to dance. Once the male lead gets conformation of this fact he determines that what everyone in town needs to feel better, is a dance party. From there Ren resolves to fight the system, lead by Reverend Shaw who is the town preacher and father of Ariel; the female ingénue.

In the Players version Cameron Baker delivers a strong vocal performance as Ren and Emily Hardesty as Ariel makes a good match. Though, the real star of this show might be the moments when songs transform into big dance numbers. When the stage is full and everyone settles into the pocket, dancing and smiling together, the ensemble shines. So much so I found myself wishing there were more of those moments as some musical numbers had the actors bound to kitchen chairs or pacing back and forth on stage for much of their number. Providing the comic relief for the show is Adam Raso and Arianna Morgan, as Willard and Rusty respectively, who sent the audience into fits of laughter and ovations as they finished scenes bringing the show to a halt more than once. The only issue I had with any individual performance is that some of the performers are asked to perform in roles which are significantly older and more experienced than the actors are themselves, and this is often difficult for me as an audience member to accept for the duration of a show.

Overall though, this Footloose suffers from a lack of clarity and detail. An issue which was presented most clearly in the technical elements. The most prominent of which was an urban themed set structure with truss and garage style roll doors which worked very well in the opening number set in Chicago, but it seemed largely out of place for the rest of the production that takes place in the rural town. I found this most odd when the townsfolk attended church and this structure was featured prominently as the setting for those scenes. The set piece does work wells as a piece of Beaumont when it also doubles, or triples, as the train bridge from Beaumont, but when that actors ascended the structure the lighting used for the actors cast shadows below them clearly visible on the backdrop, distracting me from the scene. Also, from my vantage point I was able to see backstage to the pit musicians as they played, which I don’t think I was supposed to, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of them because the lights for them to see their music lighted them brightly throughout the show which then created an ambient glow on the the backdrop 100% of the time making all blackouts in between scenes irrelevant and distracting from the world of the play. Turning away from the set, the vocal and pit musicians were not well balanced in the sound amplification, making certain parts of the show difficult to hear as one actor would be too loud and undoubtedly the next to speak would be to quiet to hear, or in the worst cases the piano drowned out all. Sometimes for a moment and other times for extended durations. The lighting further contributed to the distractions as parts of the stage would switch on or off suddenly distracting me rather than pulling me into the story.

All and all this is a wonderful opportunity to see the up and coming talent in the Peoria area. My issues aside, the singing and dances were all good enough to let the individual performances shine above the rest and if you find yourself in the audience you will enjoy the experience. Just sit toward the center of the house if you can.

Footloose continues at Peoria Players with performances at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Friday & Saturday and at 2 pm on Sunday.  Tickets are $19 for adults and $12 for ages 18 & younger and are on sale at the Peoria Players Box Office, by calling 309-688-4473 or online at

Posted on August 6, 2015