Theater students at Canyon Crest Academy are getting ready to trade sneakers for cowboy boots and modern songs for 1980s classics in their upcoming performance of Footloose.
The musical — modeled after the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon — follows the story of Ren, a newcomer to a highly religious, strict town, who wants to bring some fun into the area. However, a stern city council and reverend — who is the father of Ren’s love interest Ariel — make things difficult.
Jeannine Marquie, theater director at CCA in Carmel Valley, said she thought Footloose — which is being performed on select days from March 17 to April 1 — would be a fun throwback to the 1980s.
“Every other year, I look for a big show we can do that a lot of students can be involved in,” she said, adding the school is also simultaneously putting on the play She Kills Monsters, which takes place in the 1990s.
While the parents of the students were excited about Footloose — which features classic ’80s songs like the iconic title track and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” — Marquie said it took some time to get the kids pumped for the show, which was announced last summer and held auditions in December. Since then, the cast has been rehearsing four days a week for three hours a day.
Eventually, the teenagers found they were connected to the piece despite the generation gap because of their desires to be independent.
“I feel like this show is more relatable than other things we have done in the past,” said Jonas McMullen, a 17-year-old junior who is playing Ren. “It’s so fun to do shows like Evita, but you can just really connect with Footloose on a deeper level. I feel like we find the parts of these characters that we see in ourselves, and that just makes it even easier.”
He said stepping into the shoes of Bacon — in a sense — is nerve-wracking, but he’s been watching the original film on repeat to study the character.
Phillip Magin, an 18-year-old senior who is playing Rev. Shaw Moore, said he has found it challenging to embody his strict adult character since he feels more toward the younger players.
As a senior applying to colleges, he said he can relate to the younger characters wanting to break free from the rules.
“The process of stepping into the shoes of an older character and trying to inhabit the life of a preacher who has a wife and daughter was a surreal experience,” said Magin, who had never participated in a musical before Footloose. “I can kind of see it’s tough to relate to teenagers when you’re not a teenager and you’re so removed from it. It’s like I want to be rooting for Ren, but I can’t.”
The show also features the talents of students other than those from the theater program.
Marquie said students from the dance and singing disciplines also have numbers in the show, and one student was even asked to write an original song for the score.
Allie James, the 15-year-old freshman who wrote a ballad for the show, said this was her first time writing a song for a musical.
“It was really hard writing it,” she said, adding she is also performing the song in the play. “It was a totally different genre for me. When I was asked to write it, I was so excited. I jumped right on it.”
Opportunities like that are what draw students to the school, which is divided into seven disciplines — cinema, dance, digital/fine arts, humanities, instrumental music, theater and vocal music.
CCA Principal Brett Killeen said when the school opened in 2004, part of its identity was the envisioned performing arts program.
He said guest artists — like Broadway actress Susan Egan — have come to the school to speak to and help teach the students.
Avery-Claire Nugent, a 17-year-old junior who is playing Ariel, the reverend’s rebellious daughter and Ren’s love interest, said there was no question she’d attend the school.
Interested students are placed into a lottery system, she said, but a backup school was not even on her mind.
“I’ve had my heart set on CCA since the sixth grade,” said Avery, who has been performing since she was a toddler. “I wasn’t even thinking about if I didn’t get into the lottery; I was going to come to CCA. I did not care what it took. Theater was my first priority. Every year it’s just opportunity after opportunity. I’m so grateful every day to be in this program.”
Footloose runs in CCA’s Envision Theatre — 5951 E. Village Center Loop Road in Carmel Valley — on March 17, 24, 25 and April 1 at 7 p.m.; March 18 at 2 p.m.; and March 30 at 4:30 p.m. Ticket prices range between $6 and $15 and are available at https://bit.ly/2nb4jbT.