Let’s dance! Everybody cut loose, kick off the Sunday shoes, the 1980s hit “Footloose” is coming to Wheelersburg.
Wheelersburg High School students are bringing the musical back to life next weekend as they harken back to Feb. 17, 1984, when Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer hit the dance floor in the original movie. It’s a movie filled with song and dance, and the Wheelersburg students have prepared and are committed to performing the show of their lifetime.
Katy Todt, a senior, plays the part of Ariel, the pastor’s daughter, and one of the lead characters in the musical. Todt is no stranger to playing a lead part — before her sophomore year, she played the librarian in “The Music Man.”
“I’m very excited about this,” she says, “kinda nervous, but very excited. It is kinda like, bittersweet,” referring to the fact that she will be graduating in two months. She has three songs to sing with other people, and she really likes musical theater. “There is a lot of family coming in to see me in this, people that haven’t even been to my house before, which makes me a little bit more nervous. The run-throughs are like what if I mess up, but I feel like when you put on the real show, it’s like okay, whatever happens, happens. It’s more fun.”
Todt plans to attend Ohio University to get a degree in communications, and film and study film. “I want to be a director one day,” she says without hesitation.
Hannah Newman, also a senior, plays the part of Vi Moore, the pastor’s wife, another lead character in the musical.
”I have a solo part, which is toward the end of the show, called, ‘Can You Find It In Your Heart?’ I played a lead in our class play, not a musical, but in the play. I did sing, it was a little weird.” As her character goes, Newman says, “Oh, I love it, something about, we sing a song about learning to be silent. A lot of times people are told to be silent, sit back and listen and play the role, and by the end, you get to speak out, stand out for something you believe in, and that’s something that I am really passionate for. I enjoy everyone having equal opportunity. Everyone has a right to speak and be heard. Frankly, just the whole process of everything is so much fun.” Newman sings in a traveling choir called Cardinal Corral, which used to be a part of the all-state choir. Newman plans on attending Morehead University to study music education. “I would love to start out as a music teacher, and then, if I can go farther in my career, I’ll see where it takes me,” she says.
Seniors Jenna Young and Natalie Percell, who are part of the music ensemble and the church choir, know that just because they don’t have a lead character part, the music and their singing is essential to the movements within the musical. They will be singing on the platform. Both are in the select choir at Wheelersburg, and are section leaders. They say singing in a musical doesn’t make them nervous since they’ve performed in front of several audiences while in choir the past three years. The young ladies are both going to attend college and study nursing — Young attending Ohio University Southern, and Percell at Shawnee State University.
Jason Nham is a senior who’s playing the lead role of Ren. Like the young ladies before him, he plans to go to Miami-Oxford University, where he has already been accepted.
“I hope to get a bachelor’s degree in software engineering and a master’s degree in computer science. My hope is to be hired by, like, an automotive company and be a software engineer, or, if I work for Google or Amazon, I wouldn’t mind that at all,” Nham says humorously.
”I play Ren McCormick. It’s definitely like a huge step for me, because last year, we didn’t have a musical, and the year before that I was in ‘The Music Man,’ but it wasn’t like a huge role or anything. We’ve been doing work since last October. With the amount of lines I have, it is way more abundant than my first musical,” he says.
Nham has not only a tremendous amount of lines, but also has three solos and a duet, along with other songs throughout the musical. He says he definitely believes that once he is in character, it will be easier. “I love music, I love to sing. Looking at it from the beginning of the year until now, it was a lot of work. It’s been kind of hectic, but a lot of time management has been put into it,” he says. “I just love being involved in music, and I’m sure when it is all done, I’ll feel really glad I did this.” He says he thinks the musical has really brought a lot of people closer together, and he really appreciates that, and that they all seem to get along really well.
Sophomore Luke Miller plays the character of Reverend Shaw Moore, the grumpy dad, he calls it. Miller says a lot of people wanted him to play this role. They said if he didn’t, they would be mad. He says he’s an upbeat guy, but if he has to, he can flip that switch like that, and “I can be what the part calls me to do.”
He adds that no one has any idea how many lines he has to learn for his character. “Anytime that I have a free moment, I’ll look at those lines and drill it in my head. I always carry that book with me everywhere I go.” Miller says he, too, is in the music ensemble and is vocal point, which he says is basically section leader. “It’s very cool. this is my first part in a musical, and I have to sing by myself three or four times.”
“Oh my goodness, this is honestly the best thing I have ever gotten into,” admits Miller, who is mature for his age, which is why his peers wanted him to play the part. “I thought it would be stressful, and that I’d never be able to do all I do.”
He also competes in cross-fit and plays football. Yet he says “when I walk into theater, it’s a whole different atmosphere. It’s like the theater bug bites me in the butt, like 10 times. It’s awesome. I’ve never been more attached to something,” he says. Miller loves music, and learned how to write music. He says he loves using his raw voice like he does in this musical, and he gets to “spit fire” while he sings.
Freshman Jacob Lore plays Willard, the best friend of Ren. Lore was not originally playing this role, but it was turned over to him when the junior originally cast to play the character became ill and was not able to continue his role, leaving it up to Lore.
Lore says the role is great for him, but he feels really badly that the other young man was unable to do so. Even though he’s just a freshman, he is in the music ensemble, vocal point. He says singing is not new to him — he used to sing in church a lot, so he’s used to being in front of people. “It’s like your body goes on autopilot.”
“I do love the character, and I have an accent that I have for the part.” he explains. His character has quite a bit of dancing, and he says the cast has practiced a lot of dancing. In his future, even though he’s just a freshman, he says he plans to probably be an anesthesiologist.
Samuel Fowler is music director at Wheelersburg High School, and has been preparing the students for this musical since October. Fowler is in his second year of teaching — he taught at Sciotoville Community School last year, and directed the show choir there. Fowler is a graduate of Bloom-Vernon High School, and attended Morehead University. He has a music education degree and a theater degree. While in college, he did theater shows during the school year and the summer, and he still performs at the Paramount Theatre.
He says the group of kids with whom he is working on this musical are an awesome group. They have danced in the past, but nothing this intense.
“This is a dance show, and that’s new for them,” he says. “At the beginning, that was our biggest challenge. But they like it so much.” Fowler says he loves teaching music, but that this theater part is his favorite part. He even says choir is fun, but if he could direct a musical every day, it would be great. He speaks highly of the group of kids and their work ethic. “What’s impressed me is, I may come around the corner, and if I see them working in the lunchroom, I’m blown away.” He also says he told the kids that no one in the county is doing a dance in theater. He picked “Footloose” because he believed so many would like this musical.
Spending an evening with Fowler and his students preparing for their musical is impressive, as it is easy to see he has a bunch of enthusiastic and hard-working young people who want to please him and their community. They all showed that hard work will pay off, and they will perform one of the best musicals around. Those who love music and dance will not want to miss this one. This group is one that will surely impress all that go see them.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928