By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
A play like Cyrano never loses its meaning. All of us, after all, have some physical flaw about which we're overly sensitive. That's what makes this story timeless. Too bad Plano Rep didn't quite get it right. They took a classic play about history's most famous nose and they blew it.
The connection to Rostand's work is there all right, between the characters of Ren, the Chicago boy shocked to discover there's no dancing allowed in the small town of Bomont, and Willard, a lovable hick who freezes up when he's within 10 yards of his beloved, Rusty. Only when Ren teaches Willard some groovy dance steps is the young oaf emboldened to ask Rusty, gulp, to the illegal prom the kids are throwing down by the tracks.
Oh, wait, that was the Kevin Bacon movie. The stage version is slightly different, but no matter. Most of the same plot points remain, along with about a dozen bouncy tunes, including the movie's "Almost Paradise," "Let's Hear It for the Boy" and the Kenny Loggins title song. The stage version was adapted by the film's creator and lyricist, Dean Pitchford, along with Walter Bobbie. Music is by Tom Snow.
The acting space in the Parker Square Playhouse is just a few weeks old, and even at the weekend matinee performance reviewed (a few days after the opening night of Footloose), the paint was still wet and the barebones set unfinished. This is not an audience-friendly space. Sightlines are blocked by large building-support columns onstage. Acoustically it's a lead-lined casket. The cast of energetic young performers, many of them students at UNT, SMU and Collin County Community College, must wear those clunky and very visible head mikes to make themselves heard. The result is sound that is either too loud or is muffled. Visually, the headgear makes the cast look like a bunch of dancing switchboard operators.
In the leads are the kids of the theater group's director, Peg Waldschmidt, and technical director, Diane Maresca. As Ren McCormack, the Chicago high schooler with happy feet and a big mouth, Travis Waldschmidt dances well, sings OK, but can't act a lick. As Ariel, the preacher's rebellious daughter, Melissa Maresca has a lovely voice and a ballerina's build, which she wrecks with slumpy posture. As Willard, Michael Maresca emerges as the star of the show, singing and dancing with unbridled joy and a real sense that he knows what he's doing up there.
Community theater being what it is, there are those in the cast who hit flat notes more than good ones. The set changes take ages. Kids cough into their head mikes and trip over wires when battery packs fall out of the back of their shorts. But jeez, Louise, just when it's starting to look like a train wreck, somebody with a sweet face will step into the spotlight and save the moment.
Footloose is about as dippy a musical as it gets and this is nowhere close to a polished production, but there are worse ways to spend an afternoon in Flower Mound.