Footloose is the spring musical at Sprague, and along with my parents we took in a showing last night. I thought it was a mixed bag thanks mostly to the questionable decision to cast adults in some of the lead roles. This isn’t community theatre, it’s a high school production, and as such my contention is that it should highlight student talent. If there’s a need for an adult in a role, that’s one thing, but that was not the case here. Students in make-up could’ve performed all these parts, and I dare say they would’ve done a better job. In some respects, then, this was the tale of two plays.
For the students, the music and singing are exceptional. Sprague’s choir and music programs are among the best in the state (if not the nationâ€”we won a Grammy, you know), and it showed here. The sound levels weren’t well mixed, but otherwise, it was a professional-quality presentation. Absolutely outstanding. On this account alone, the production is worth seeing. For the adults, the music was obviously just as good, but the singing was sub-par. Not painfully so, perhaps, but obviously deficient by inevitable comparison.
Unfortunately, the acting was similarly hit-or-miss. The student supporting cast was excellent, but it was downhill from there. The student leads were fair actors, cast maybe more for their considerable vocal talent than their acting chops. It didn’t help that the play’s writing had some clunky dialogue. On the adult side, the leads were never able to maintain the suspension of disbelief necessary to pull things off. It always felt like we were watching someone acting. Coupled with a vocal talent that didn’t measure up, the question is really why there weren’t more kids cast. Ironically, this choice runs against one of the work’s themes: Faith in kids.