Oxford's Nine Mile Players decided to launch their first full-length musical this year. I had the pleasure of attending one of their performances of the adaptation of the 1980s pop cultural phenomenon film Footloose that was presented at Oxford Center School. The director Jason A. Coombs indicated that Footloose contains the themes of grieving the loss of young lives and many of the characters coming of age. He writes, "We didn't choose Footloose as our next production, it chose us." I enjoyed their musical review You Can't Stop the Beat last year and looked forward to seeing this group's next production. Overall, they rose to the challenge of this musical.
This is a unique group of actors in that they range in age from fourth grader to adult and they worked together seamlessly. Many of them played more than one role in this show and they did so admirably. Even the lovely producer Ashleigh Smith, who provided me with a complimentary front row seat, appeared as the not so nice Coach Shannon Beist.
Bridgeport resident Gregory Gardner takes on the lead role of Ren McCormack and played it with charm and a fine voice. The lovely Ashley Veltri, a senior at Oxford High School, played Mary Poppins last year; here she was the sassy and very tall Ariel in her iconic red cowboy boots. Jason Michael Maur was a fine Reverand Shaw Moore, while Adam Berlingeri was the scary Chuck Cranston. SCSU graduate Jason Parry did a great job with the role of the geeky Willard Hewitt and Wendy Scola was his perfect comic foil as Rusty.
Bucket List of Unbroken Dreams alum Tony Benedetti was good as Wes Warnicker and Lyle. Many actors that were part of You Can't Stop the Beat were back here, including Amy Cote (as Ethel McCormack) and her two daughters Dana and Erin, and Caroline Wolf as Savannah. All of the girls in this cast did a wonderful job with the choreography of Jackie Baia. I really liked the staging of "I'm Free" at the end of the first act and "Somebody's Eyes" was also well done.
Standouts in the cast for me were Cierra Jordan (as the school principal and Cowgirl Barb,) who had a fine stage presence and a great voice, as well as the Vocal Director Sarah Beirne who played the role of the Reverand's wife Vi to perfection.
The Musical Director was the amazingly talented Bradley Scoville of Bucket List fame. An electrical engineer by day and musician by night, this young man can play the piano (and the bass) so very well and perfectly accompanied the singers he directed. I loved the multiple clip-on lights illuminating his director's score. Costumes by the eldest Ms. Cote fit the period. The set was perfectly appropriate for 1988; the video by the director and Adam Berlingeri set the mood and was fun to watch for those of us who remember that year.
This is an upcoming theatre group that has a lot of heart that they poured into this energetic show. I look forward to their upcoming productions in nearby Oxford.