Villanova opens rendition of Footloose this past weekend

By Jason Viau

The Villanova Wildcat Players perform their rendition of Footloose at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School on April 30. The final series of shows are scheduled for May 4, 5 and 7 at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10.

A downed power line near St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School did not stop the Villanova Wildcat Players from performing their rendition of Footloose, but did cancel the final dress rehearsal before students hit the stage.

The show premiered without a hitch, dispite a few setbacks said director Michelle Mailloux. And although students were exhausted after pulling long hours, she said they did very well.

“Our first night was a little bit difficult without the dress rehearsal because we didn’t get all of our technical parts worked out,” said Mailloux. “Our opening night was really our dress rehearsal.”

From actors to ushers and orchestra to concessions, about 150 students and nearly $12,000 was involved in putting on a series of six shows beginning April 28. The students have been rehearsing four days a week since November for nearly three hours a day. Maddy Walker, 16, who plays the lead female role of Ariel, said leading up to opening weekend students had been pulling 16-hour days to ensure everything went smoothly.

In addition to rehearsals, Dan Johnson said he spends a lot of time practicing his lead role as Ren at home, but says “it’s completely worth it.” Johnson, in Grade 12, has been involved in theatre throughout his entire high school career and plans to continue after graduation.

“I’m going to pursue some sort of acting career but I’m going to aim towards being a lawyer,” said Johnson.

Mike McCallum, a senior at Villanova and Johnson’s counterpart as Ren, said this is his first time performing on stage in a musical. He’s worked behind the scenes on technical aspects of past productions but says this has been a great opportunity to experience being on stage. Many of the students, including McCallum, said they have discovered a new meaning of family amongst their musically-inclined peers after performing their depiction of Footloose.

“The thing that I love about what we’ve done here is we’ve all become a family,” said McCallum.

In the future, he said he would also like to perform Rent but also continue his education in London, Ont. where he plans to pursue sound and recording production. His ultimate career goal is to become a rock star.

Mailloux said the most important aspect of an event like this is to teach students to persevere and overcome adversity. She said they were all very interested in putting together a performance that would showcase their talent and the students eventually encouraged her to produce Footloose.

“It’s a timeless story because all teenagers have struggles with adults … ,” said Mailloux. “The show is very funny and the kids have worked very hard on their characters and their singing.”

Villanova senior Noelle Farrah, who alternates in the role of Ariel with Walker, said she discovered her love for the arts at her place of worship.

“When I was in grade school I got involved in the church choir and noticed that I have this voice,” said Farrah. “I like getting (the audience) excited, making them laugh … I really enjoy that.”

Wrapping up opening weekend students said they’ve been receiving a lot of positive feedback from young and old alike.

“We’ve had a lot of people come up to us and say ‘Wow that was even better than the movie,’” said McCallum.

Mailloux said she expects a greater turnout with a more energetic and engaging audience for the final series of shows May 4, 5 and 7 as word spreads in the community about the Footloose production.

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