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The student news site of New Trier High School

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The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

Choir opera musical ‘Footloose’ emphasizes joy in dancing with others

Last month, ‘Footloose’ actors spent time together forming cast connections, while cultivating a glowing, dance-filled musical about an uptight high school and a newcomer that shaped its future
Amongst many other productions done this year, ‘Footloose’ had something original and special for all audience members

Blue lights illuminate the back of the stage as dark shadows of the actors run and flip across it to a steady beat. Now the lights are pink and yellow, and the many “Footloose” characters line up for the first of a dozen choreographed dances. Starting in the busy, dance-filled streets of Chicago, teen Ren McCormack announces his upcoming move to a new, and apparently well-known town. “What’s the name of it?” Bomont. The “well known” town of Bomont.

Rehearsing with two combined casts, the ensemble and leads performed on only two days, and some on all four performances. Miles Davidson and Asher Alcantara both stepped into the lead role of Ren McCormack, however in separate casts. Bella Rouse performed in ensemble for each show that was put on.

Open to New Trier juniors and seniors, this year’s choir opera musical was chosen long before auditions. Students who auditioned in the beginning of the year for the choir opera class were automatically placed in the musical, but roles were yet to be determined for each student. For junior Bella Rouse, the process was relatively easy and carried minimal stress. 

“You choose from three songs for different voice parts for the musical, so that they can hear your voice in the musical, and we also had a group dance audition,” Rouse said.  

Being a fairly large cast, there were many roles to fill. Senior Asher Alcantara described the stress of waiting for cast lists to be released.

“They were whittling down who it was gonna be, and then they made you wait until after winter break to tell you who is who,” Alcantara said. “I found out in the beginning of January, and we started rehearsing right away.” 

While the end result is extremely rewarding for audiences and casts alike, the rehearsal process builds strong connections between cast members. Balancing theater, school, and hobbies, the students figured out ways to create a fantastic and energetic musical while also prioritizing life.

 “Towards the end of the rehearsal process we have tech rehearsals in the space with all the different elements with the sound and lights,” Alcantara said. “Those are after school from 4pm to 8pm, so it can be hard to get work done, but it’s good community building.” 

When the actors are on stage rehearsing, dance choreography takes up a huge part in the musical. Working out the difficult parts, the directors collaborated with the cast to make the dance numbers flow just right.

 “It’s definitely hard for the directors to control all of us, so that was a bit of a learning curve. But when we finally get it and it all comes together, it ends up being really satisfying,” Rouse said. 

As choir opera students spend several hours together each week during the school day, the addition of a musical such as “Footloose” created more opportunities for connections. Rehearsing together during class and after school, the juniors and seniors built friendships with each other that were closer than casts in previous years of performances.

But when we finally get it and it all comes together, it ends up being really satisfying.

— Bella Rouse

“Even though the script demands some division between people in the cast, we were able to be very unified through the whole process,” Davidson said. And with a closer and more connected cast, it also comes with a greater understanding they have for each other, especially with choreography and group dance numbers. 

Working together with both singing and dancing, characters such as Ren McCormack and Ariel Moore seeked a greater amount of time in the spotlight. Connecting with their characters, particularly Ren, helped transfer that same rebel-like attitude to the audiences.

“He’s kind of goofy, his sense of humor drives his character, and he gets into trouble for making jokes,” Alcantara said. By connecting with the character personalities played in the musical, the students convey a deeper understanding that makes audiences forget that it’s acting. 

After the performances on March 6 and 9, both casts expressed a great deal of satisfaction in the results of the musical, from accuracy in choreography to belting out song lyrics during a love song. 

“It was a general consensus among the cast and the directors that we got better and better as we went on,” Davidson said. 

The cast additionally felt a large difference in the way they collaborated throughout show times. With the pandemic getting in the way of normal theater productions, the cast found increasingly more ways to bond. 

“Since COVID, it’s been hard to bond with casts, because at the beginning of high school we were still doing shows with masks on,” Alcantara said. “But we got to have community activities this year, and actually be near each other during rehearsals.” 

Being a dance-filled, disco ball-esque musical about finding your own beat, “Footloose” brought a message to the table that not many other musicals can. A must see both in theater productions and on screen, characters expressed the innate need to dance. 

“This was probably my favorite show I’ve done in high school, and it was nice to get really close to the cast,” Alcantara said. 

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