THE CLASSIC TEEN STORY COMES TO THE STAGE AND WILL HAVE YOUR FEET TAPPING FROM START TO FINISH
UCLA HOOLIGAN Theatre company continues their 12th season with their spring musical FOOTLOOSE with a sold out weekend. HOOLIGAN is the one of the few student run theatre companies on the Westwood Campus. Working with mostly non-theatre majors, they consistently produce first rate productions. The student run theatre company has an impressive season of musicals for their 2016 -17 12th season.
Over Easter weekend the troop closed a sold out five performances of FOOTLOOSE at the Fraud Stage at the UCLA Arts Center. Based on a true story, the 1984 movie Footloose became a cult movie among teens and young twenties, not only because it showcased a rebel with a cause standing up for his rights, and displaying victory over misguided-adults, but because of the performance of Kevin Bacon as Ren McCormick.
Rumor says that the then 26 year-old Bacon was so intent on making his portrayal of a small town teen realistic that he enrolled as a student in a public high school to observe the students. His charade only lasted until mid-day, but, obviously created enough credibility to make Bacon a generational icon, similar to Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off).
Hooligan’s is about to open ANYTHING GOES this weekend, and UCLA Theatre Arts opens CARRIE The Musical on June 2. Yet I need to shout out to the wonderful cast and production team of FOOTLOOSE, I don’t need to help push any ticket sales or even mention much about the “A town that bans dancing”. So let me point out the terrific performances that I saw over Easter weekend 2017 at the UCLA Campus.
Footloose: The Musical, with music by Tom Snow, with additional songs by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Eric Carmen, and lyrics by Dean Pitchford (except, "Footloose" which was co-written by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins). Directed by the clever Joshua Shtein who makes his debut as a director for HOOLIGAN, moving from the lead in WEDDING SINGER to assistant director of RENT. He captured the love and appeal of the story and brought dance back to Bomont.
HOOLIGAN’s company main goal is to allow any student audition no matter what their major may be, not just theatre majors, even though a few drop in. Anyone who auditions is not cut, this means their casts are large and the challenge for the student producers is not always easy. Josh Shtein and his team that includes powerhouse music director Joey Galasso, Vocal Director Jennifer Nguyen-Ly and compelling choreography by Ellen Durnal bring the best out of their company.
The musical, like the film, follows the move of Ren and his mother Ethel, following their abandonment by his father, from Chicago to the small town of Bomont. His Chicago friends even moan, "Where the hell is Bomont!?". Texas is where his conservative aunt and uncle have offered the duo a place to stay. The full company opens with banner number “Footloose” the talented 44 member cast, highlighting some excellent first time dancers and of course their pro’s like Oscar Tsukayama, Braylon Camper and Adrian Collen.
Jayne Skinner sings the iconic pop tune “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” to him and the cast on stage in an eye popping dance number choreographed by Durnall and a show stopping solo created and performed by Tsukayama. Jaya Mapleton, Jayne Skinner, Alia Hakki and Katie Emery make a wonderful harmonic quartet in “Holding Out For a Hero”, in which Ariel expresses her desire for a good guy. “Almost Paradise” is a duet made in heaven between the two leads Brogadir and Mapleton. They not only sing this iconic number so beautifully they make you swoon, they also make a great-looking couple once Ariel finally lets her walls come down.
Photo's by Friend of the cast and Vmediaa
FOOTLOOSE was stage April 14, 15, 16 2017
Jaya Mapleton makes a beautiful, flirty and slightly dangerous Ariel, the minister’s daughter. Handsome Brogadir’s version of Ren is more down to earth, a kid who is confident and is frustrated by his difficult family life and the lack of freedom in Bomont, where dancing is banned. Brogadir is also a snappy dancer who shows off his steps through out the challenging two hour story.
Director Shtein and Choreographer Durnall add an endearing edge to Ren for his song “I Can’t Stand Still;” Brogadir shows off his impressive dance skills and pitch perfect voice. Chief among Ariel’s and Ren’s sidekicks are the spirited Rusty, played by spitfire Jayne Skinner, and goofy, insecure cowboy Willard, portrayed by a Hooligan’s favorite, Oscar Tsukayama. Willard brings the humor to the stage and Tsukayama is one of the few cast members that is constantly in the Bomont,Texas mode with his perfect body language, Texas accent and southern swag. Later as his story progresses we can see Tsukayama is one of the star dancers of this musical as he is featured in “Let’s Hear It For The Boys” and steals the show in the lively “Mama Says”.
The powerhouse Skinner sings the iconic pop tune “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” to him and the cast on stage in an eye popping dance number choreographed by Durnall and a show stopping solo created and performed by Tsukayama. Jaya Mapleton, Jayne Skinner, Alia Hakki and Katie Emery make a wonderful harmonic quartet in “Holding Out For a Hero”, in which Ariel expresses her desire for a good guy. “Almost Paradise” is a duet made in heaven between the two leads Brogadir and Mapleton. They not only sing this iconic number so beautifully they make you swoon, they also make a great-looking couple once Ariel finally lets her walls come down.
First time HOOLIGAN Sadie Holzman scored a lead and makes the most of her small role as Ren’s mother, especially in the telling song “Learning to Be Silent” in which Ethel, Ariel and the minister’s wife, Vi, give revealing insight into how women are dangerously silenced in this town. Holzman has a wonderful full voice as Harrison brings his passion to his role. The tension nearly reaches the breaking point at the dramatic end of Act I.The teens assemble to sing “I’m Free” featuring the stunning Samuel Brogadir, challenging the adults singing “Heaven Help Me” featuring tightly wound Cody Harrison and church choir above.
Jenna Luck makes an incredibly warm, wise pastor’s wife, Vi. Her loving character helps others reach healing and reconciliation. Her wonderful solo “Can You Find It In Your Heart” Luck’s voice is wonderful and she shows promise as a leading actress. Of course, FOOTLOOSE wouldn’t be much fun without great dance.
Ellen Durnal’s choreography is a blast, opening the show with a hip hop feel especially in the big payoff of the title number, when leading man Samuel gets to show off his mad dance and jazz move skills. Oscar is also credited for choreographing his dance solo - jumps - splits, and body roles. Both Tsukayama and Brogadir have the perfect dance timing skills and make a charismatic team on stage.
Ren is the hero in this love story of dance and freedom. He becomes obsessed with defying authority, falls for the preacher's rebellious daughter, and sings and dances up a storm with his boys. At his aid we see the talents of Tim Gibson, the talented Braulio Sepulveda, Kristy Pirone as grumpy Aunt Lulu and the dapper Jack Morris as a Trump supporting Uncle Wes.
Coach supports the grumps of the cast as Damon Dumas perfectly fits the role with his very humorous and over the top classic pud. Alongside him is Principal Clark played by the convincing Caleb Kim. Mr Kim, Erin Harris, Braylon Camper, Kiara Bryant and many others add to the rich, growing diversity that the HOOLIGAN production team has done well to expand. Yet I might add it would be amazing to see more diversity on UCLA stages, but again it is all about who actually auditions for their season of plays and musicals.
Other talents to point out include the tall lanky mega villain, Ariel’s home town boyfriend and abuser, Chuck, played by the skilled Brandon Papo. The villain is always fun to play - yet Papo shows an abusive side when he beats up Ariel on stage forcing the audience to gasp. Papo plays the part well and is easy to hate; he is without a doubt an excellent actor. Also in the mix is the stoic Nick Pantoja as Cowboy Bob, and talented Sofie Sheldon who strolls in as the helpful Betty Blast.
The ensemble kept the show moving and made the set changes smooth - they include Melissa Aris, Hayley Barton, Kiara Bryant, Christine Culhane, Bridget Detlefsen, Chelsa Hall, Erin Harris, Sierra Hovey, Niki Jew, Emily Lane, Emma Lauterbach, Sarina Levin, Chrisly Macaraeg, Veronica Louis Mendoza, Tala Moussouras, Monique Ortiz, Aika Patel, Sanna Rafaovich, Julia Regan, Hannah Roberson, Natasha Sharma, Nina Sheridan, Jelissa Sparks, Lucy Wang, and Anna Wells. All bring it on for the FOOTLOOSE classics including “Dancing Is Not A Crime” that features Ren and the boys.
The play's "moral" is spotlighted as Ren gives an impassioned speech to the Town Council to change the rule regarding the law against dancing. After Ren’s suggestion is voted down, he goes to talk to the Reverend, and "brings forth a miracle." That, of course, is a change of heart by the Reverend, and explodes into a wild version of the "Footloose Finale (mega mix)," leaving the audience stomping, clapping, and on its feet as the cast transitioned into a standing curtain call ovation.
The Hooligan production delights the audience. Joshua Shtein knows his UCLA crowd and he gives them all they want... a hokey story with a nice moral, dynamic dancing swing musical sounds created by the talented orchestra lead by the unforgettable Joey Galasso. Jennifer Nguyen-Ly vocal director proved some nice vocalizations The set was an ever-moving and captivating row of risers and ramps designed by Sarah Banks and Amy Cummings. The sound design by Brittany Cobb did not skip a beat and with all the high end dancing each actor remained audible.
The appropriate costumes, including 1980s formal clothes that are a visual delight, designed by Ariana Garcia with each female cast member asked to bring their old prom dresses to campus. Garcia’s look for Willard was lovable overalls, and the Rev in his dapper blacks, but the stylistic guy dressed in his rebel, Bomont best was Brandon Papo in his heavy metal tee shirts and knee torn Ramons pants. The lighting featured the bright scrim background of colors that set the mood for each scene designed by Cynthia Ayala. Hair and makeup was up to par designed by Christine Culhane.
Highlights of this spring show include Jaya Mapleton as Ariel who was nicely supported by her girl friends, Urleen (Emery) Wendy Jo (Hakki) and Rusty (Skinner). Rusty was ideally played by Jayne Skinner, who vocally wailed and held a frustrating (but hilarious) relationship with the shy, likable Willard, portrayed to comic perfection by Oscar Tsukayama. Oscar’s high energy and artistry crushed "Mama Says" stopping the show. Other show stoppers were "Still Rockin'," "Holding Out For a Hero," "Let's Hear It For the Boy," and "I'm Free/Heaven Help Me."
The producing team for FOOTLOOSE is to be commended and they include Amanda Faucher, Ariana Garcia, and production manager Natalia Kazimi. Hooligan Theatre Company is a first rate student run troop of talent that keeps the UCLA spirit of theatre arts a step up. This production closed after four sold out standing O performances. The audience of students and community were on their feet at the end of each performance. ANYTHING GOES opens this weekend Friday April 21 and is directed by Chase Privett.
HOOLIGAN THEATRE COMPANY PRESENTS
Music by Tom Snow, with Songs by Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar, Jim Steinman and Eric Carmen, Lyrics Dean Pitchford "Footloose" co-written by Pitchford and Kenny Loggins
Directed By Joshua Shtein, Choreographed by Ellen Durnal
Music Director Joey Galasso
For HTC Produced by Sarah Banks and Amy Cummings,
Production Manager Natalia Kazimi.
Closed April 15th at UCLA Freud Theatre
For more information about HTC and tickets for future shows
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Carrie the Musical
Music by Michael Gore, Lyrics by Dean Pitchford; Book by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on the Stephen King novel
Musical Direction by Dan Belzer, Stage Direction by Nick Degruccio
Vocal Direction by Jeremy Mann, Choreography by Lee Martino
Plagued by bullies at school and an oppressive mother at home, an awkward teenager finds her telekinetic powers and discovers she has the final revenge. Based on the smash novel, this musical delivers the legend of Carrie in a new and exciting way.
June 2-3, 6-10, 2017 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 10, 2017 at 2 p.m.