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Theater Spotlight: Lose your blues with Neenah High School’s ‘Footloose’

 

Performance: “Footloose”
Presented by: Neenah High School Rocket Players
Location: Pickard Auditorium, Neenah High School
Running: Oct. 16-18 and 24-26, Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7 p.m., Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets: Adults $10, Seniors/Students $8. Available at the door or online at neenah.k12.wi.us/schools/high/drama.cfm.

The story of Ren MacCormack and his battle for the right to dance has resonated with movie and theatergoers for the past 30 years. This fall the Rocket Players, the theater group at Neenah High School, are taking audiences back to the ’80s, or the ’90s, or 2011 — depending on generational reference points.

Karyl Schnyder, NHS Musical Stage and Vocal director, has found the same resonance within her students. “This show has so many similarities to the town the students live in—a small town that has a strong religious base with recent tragedies,” she says. “I enjoy helping the students take from their personal experiences and put themselves into the characters they are playing.”

For some students, getting into character was especially easy. “I relate to Willard because I am a mama’s boy myself, and I try to accept everyone and I’m also always looking to stand up for who I care about,” says Sullivan Cary, the junior who plays Willard Hewitt.

For others, the issue of fighting oppression in a high school setting really ties them to the story. “I relate to the story as I think everyone does; we are all forbidden at some point in our lives to do something we truly love. It shows us that we have to fight for what we love in order to earn it,” says senior, Christopher Tritt who plays Reverend Shaw Moore.

Footloose players

In a further effort to engage the community in the themes of the show, the Rocket Players have posted ‘NEENAH BANS DANCING’ signs all over Neenah and have even coaxed the mayor into giving a fake interview about the ban. The scheme seems to be working as some community members have taken the signs seriously, before visiting the Rocket Players’ promotional Facebook page.

The show was cast in June and the 52-member ensemble began rehearsal in mid-August before classes resumed. According to Schnyder, the hard work is paying off. “If you had asked me mid week (how rehearsal was going) I would have said ‘OK,’ and then we had two fantastic, energy-filled rehearsals,” she says. “What more could I ask for?”

The Rocket Players’ production of “Footloose” is a departure from the darker, more fanciful style of last season’s production of “Into The Woods.” “When I introduced “Into the Woods,” the students were hesitant because they didn’t know the show,” says Schnyder. “The students had an instant buy-in to “Footloose.” The excitement, the choreography—they love it.”

Footloose rehearsal

Senior Louise Brownell, who plays Vi Moore, says enthusiasm is building as the show starts to come together. “The energy makes me excited to see the final product in just a few weeks,” she says.

“This show is all about sticking up for what you believe in and becoming empowered. I think it sends out a great message, but it’s also a great show in the sense that there’s lots of dancing, jokes and singing,” says senior Lexie Zehner, who plays Rusty.

No matter which adaptation of the show you are most familiar with, the Rocket Players’ production of “Footloose” will have you kicking off your Sunday shoes.

— By Jennifer Clausing

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