Big audiences came out and cut loose last week to Vashon Center for the Arts for VCA Youth Musical Theatre’s ambitious production of “Footloose,” which came complete with the full Broadway script and a rocking band.
The show’s cast, made up of more than 30 thespians ages 7 to 17, transported audiences back to the 1980s with favorite classics including “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear it For the Boy,” “Almost Paradise,” and of course, the show’s title song. Ably tackling all the big themes of the play, including faith, community and — my favorite — young people’s resistance to narrow-minded, restrictive, uptight adults, the hard-working cast won well-deserved ovations at the end of each of their four shows.
With a cast so big, it’s sadly impossible to mention all the performers, but some simply must be singled out. Zoey Wilson, playing the frustrated wife of the town preacher, stunned the crowd with her beautiful ready-for-Broadway voice and nuanced acting. Twin sisters Sedona and Madison Deck, in other leading roles, never missed a note, belting out the show’s anthems. Gabriel Dawson, in the role played by Kevin Bacon in the “Footloose” movie, tackled his song and dance numbers with unflagging enthusiasm and made the role his own.
It was fun to see so many siblings sharing the stage, including Raena and Johnny Joyce, the Deck twins, and Dawson and his little sister Mimi Dawson, who played a key sidekick role with lots of moxie.
Of course, it couldn’t help but remind this sentimental reviewer of the days her own twins — now off to college — strutted the Blue Heron stage in VCA’s youth musical theater shows. And sitting next to me was my equally tender-hearted friend Lauri Hennessey, another empty nester whose kids grew up in the same spotlights. It’s truly heartwarming to see a new generation experience the thrill of youth theater right here on the island.
Vashon Youth Musical Theatre — one of the crown jewels in VCA’s many youth education programs — has been led by islander Marita Ericksen since the early 2000s. The program has presented dozens of shows over the years — everything from “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” to Gilbert and Sullivan musicals, to “Frozen” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” influencing and nurturing a new generation of island performers. Next up is a production of “Singing in the Rain” that will be presented in the spring of 2020. I can’t wait.
— Elizabeth Shepherd