The problem with the 1984 movie Footloose is that it tries so damned hard to be a serious, realistic drama about a rebellious teen fighting against the joy-killing puritanism of a middle American small town that it drains the joy out of the best parts of the movie: the silly, energetic, entertaining dance scenes. The beauty of the 1998 Broadway version of the movie, at least as it has been realized in this Marriott revival, directed by Gary Griffin and choreographed by William Carlos Angulo, is that the most sanctimonious elements in the story have been stripped away, leaving more room for the fun that the show’s hero yearns to bring to the town.
The basic story (adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, based on Pitchford’s original screenplay) remains—young man battles prominent stick-in-the-mud minister for the soul of the town and the heart of the minister’s daughter—but that plot only provides a frame on which to hang the myriad rousing songs and dances that make up this show. Many of these tunes were hits in the 80s (“Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Holding out for a Hero”) though the music director, Ryan T. Nelson, and Griffin’s cast work hard to make these old songs sound new again. Aidan Wharton delivers an energetic performance in the lead role, evoking the spirit of Kevin Bacon’s performance in the movie without slavishly copying his moves. Ben Barker is quite winning as Wharton’s goofy sidekick. v