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The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

The Student News Site of Burlingame High School

The Burlingame B

Theater prepares to ‘cut loose’ dancing potential

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Emma Yu
Junior Nico Bennett, acting as “Ren,” laments his frustration with moving into a new town.

This February, Burlingame’s drama team is preparing intensely for their mid-March debut of “Footloose,” a vibrant musical themed around rock music, dancing, and rebellion.

Adapted from the 1984 award-winning film, “Footloose” features a lively teenager named Ren McCormack, who moves to a small town with his mother, Ethel. There, Ren is shocked to find out that dancing and rock music are illegal. The central plotline sends a message of defiance and hope amidst uptight censorship.

On Feb. 17th, the film “Footloose” will celebrate its 40th anniversary, but the movie’s themes remain relevant today. Cindy Skelton, the director of Footloose, emphasized that the film’s central conflict — cutting off one’s access to self-expression — is a universal and timeless concept. 

“There are some things in Footloose that do resonate, even though it’s from 40 years ago,” Skelton said. “It’s about something bad that happened, so [authorities] are going to take away stuff. We do see that in real life a lot. People are banning books because there’s ideas that we don’t [like] in there.”

Junior Nico Bennett, who plays Ren, embraced the protagonist role by capturing the spirit of the role through energetic dancing and singing. 

“On surface level, [Ren is] a fun guy,” Bennett said. “He likes to dance. He likes to move around and express himself. But he’s also kind of deep, since his dad left and he misses his dad. I enjoy being able to have a good time [while] also having a character arc.”

For Bennett, understanding Ren’s thoughts allows him to connect with the character on a personal level allowing him to express more authentic emotions onstage.

“His parents are divorced and so are mine,” Bennett said. “He grew up with a single mother and I did, too. [For] that part, I really connected with him, and I appreciate being able to put that to the stage.

Unlike Bennett, junior Lucas Keeley has more difficulty while acting as Reverend Shaw Moore, the primary antagonist. Keeley didn’t have parallel experiences to connect to Rev. Moore, so he took additional time to study the character to better understand the motivation behind his decisions and actions. 

“This is a man who’s in his 40s and had two children and lost one,” Keeley said. “That’s a lot of time that I have not experienced, [which] makes portraying the character [difficult] when it comes to embodying that and trying to imagine [what that] emotional wave is like.”

Keeley finds more common ground with Rev. Moore when it comes to the spirit of his speeches, if not the values he endorses. 

“A lot of [what] does resonate is his interest in protecting his community and his love of speaking to people and communicating to them in a spiritual and inspirational way,” Keeley said. “There’s a lot of emotional weight in the story that I really want to honor and do some [of] my best work.”

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  • An inspirational sermon is delivered by junior Lucas Keeley acting as “Rev. Moore.”

  • Cast members display their dance skills while performing the opening song, “Footloose.”

Although the music and high-energy dance numbers suggest Footloose is an upbeat musical, the plot carries a more serious message.

“A lot of people remember Footloose [as] being a lot of fun music [and] a light sort of teen comedy story,” Keeley said. “But I think there’s also [an] important side of the story that has to do with loss and grieving and about characters who have struggled to adjust to light after a tragedy.”

The production team for Footloose is focusing on rehearsing dance numbers and vocals before they introduce more technical elements onstage. 

“It’s a lot of organized chaos,” said Michelle Shannon, the choreographer of “Footloose.” “One person may have their specific flight plan that they do and somebody else crosses it. [I] make sure nobody crashes into one another.”

In preparation for the workout that will be “Footloose,” Shannon helps train the cast members to sing while doing animated dance moves.   

“Footloose is a very aerobic show,” Shannon said. “They’re gonna have to be running, jumping, dancing and singing and that takes a lot of cardiovascular strength. I’ve instructed my leads to hop on the treadmill and sing to keep that aerobic and cardiovascular energy up.”

These rigorous exercises will pay off during the performance by allowing the actors to focus on singing and having fun rather than trying to catch their breath.

“Not everybody is going to be a dancer, but I want them to enjoy doing it,” Shannon said. “You will work hard, but you do it because you love it and you have a blast doing it.”

As the artistic and head director, Skelton’s priority is making sure the show is cohesive and that different elements flow into each other. She also focuses on integrating set and prop pieces into the choreography with the crew. In “Footloose,” space management and organization backstage will be essential to make the show run smoothly. 

“The crew have to move a lot of things on and off stage while there’s a lot of people backstage,” Skelton said. “There’s twenty-nine people on the stage, plus moving set pieces that the crew has to manage.” 

Auditions for this year’s musical featured a record high turnout of freshmen and other new faces, and veteran drama students have created a welcoming atmosphere. 

“I was really inspired by all these new people who turned out and I’m also really appreciative of how the older community has done a good job of welcoming them in,” Keeley said. “[It] does feel like everyone’s working together really well.”

All six performances of Footloose are expected to sell out, and the diverse group of theater students are looking forward to ‘rocking’ the stage. 

“[It’s] something that involves people from every grade and every part of the school,” Keeley said. “We have robotics members, family [members], athletes and we have people from various [backgrounds] who do all sorts of things. [It’s] an opportunity for expression that everybody should consider giving a shot.”

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Emma Yu, Staff Reporter
Emma Yu is a freshman at Burlingame High School and a first year journalism student. She’s very excited to be part of The Burlingame B staff this year and learn about what it takes to become a journalist! Some hobbies that led her to journalism are writing stories, designing graphics, parliamentary debate, and impromptu speech. In her free time, Emma also enjoys painting, reading classics, gaming, and studying philosophy.
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