Feeling ‘Footloose’

By Steven Libowitz   |   May 28, 2024
Footloose will be at the Lobero from May 24-26 (photo courtesy of Lights Up! Theatre Company)

Although there’s only one degree of separation between Santa Barbara and Kevin Bacon, the star of the movie Footloose – soundtrack superstar Kenny Loggins, on the other hand, has lived in town for decades – neither will be involved in Lights Up! Theatre Company’s production of the stage musical this weekend. But what we do get is double casting of the biggest show from the teen theater group that has previously produced marvelous musicals at the Marjorie Luke and elsewhere in its first foray at the Lobero. 

“Footloose is such a great fit for our company because it’s an opportunity for our actors to really sink their teeth into roles that are their age group and that address concerns and situations that they’re intimately familiar with,” said director Amy Love, who co-founded the company six years ago. “They get to relax into these great teen roles and really have fun with the characters and situations.” 

The Footloose score contains a number of enduring songs, from Loggins’ title track that served as the biggest hit of his career, to “Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler) and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” (Deniece Williams’ performance of local songwriter Tom Snow’s smash tune) that made the soundtrack a best-seller. 

“The music is just so infectious and catchy and fun,” Love said. “It’s really hard to not get swept up in the show with these tunes that are very familiar.” 

That also goes for the exuberant dance scenes with the stars and full ensemble that also prove inevitable crowd pleasers.

“There are some fairly complicated steps, and a lot of dancing, and it requires a big cast,” Love said, explaining why Lights Up! is only now tackling the work. “We kind of built up our abilities and our family of actors along the way.” 

But unlike a lot of musicals, the underlying story isn’t just fluff for the fancy footwork and songs. The movie and stage adaptation tackle issues of real import, pitting a heartbroken father who sees in dancing the wayward life that cost him his son, against the newcomer to town aching to perform and haunted by his own father’s abandonment.  

“I was surprised by how good the script is,” Love said. “It is a teen musical, but these are not bubblegum themes. It’s about grief and loss, disconnection, and not being able to open your heart to risk. These are all things that teens experience as well as adults. (Our actors) have to go to some pretty deep and tender places to be able to perform some of these scenes. So it’s good that we have this longstanding history of trust that’s built up in our company, where it’s a safe place to explore those feelings and they feel safe to go there.”

That trust and exploration extends to the twin casts, with the “Heaven” cast featuring the older advanced actors who, as it happens, also served as unofficial mentors to the “Heroes” group that includes the younger rising stars in the main roles. Each cast also serves as ensemble members for the other. Each gets two performances at the Lobero over the May 24-26 run. 

Which means Footloose lovers have an excuse to come see the show twice.

“It’s really fun to come and compare notes on how the different casts handle things and interpret the roles,” Love said. 


You might also be interested in...