Glen Ridge High School thespians cut loose with ‘Footloose’

Photo Courtesy of Angelo DeFazio

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — After a COVID-19–related hiatus, live theater is back at Glen Ridge High School.

The Ridgewood Avenue School theater will once again have an audience in it when the high school drama club stages “Footloose,” the first production that they’ll be able to put on in person in more than a year and a half. Co-directors Angelo DeFazio and Christina Alamo and musical director Susan Braden chose a show that would match the raucous, joyful comeback mood of performing again.

“It’s well-known, it’s fun, there’s a lot of dancing,” DeFazio said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on June 6. “They can wear clothes from their own closet. It’s a 1980s Western, so anything goes.”

Based on the 1984 movie by the same name, “Footloose” tells the story of Ren McCormack, who moves to a small town and tries to end the ban on dancing that a local minister enacted. GRHS senior Alex Dreier is playing Ren.

“I tried to do a vocal lesson every week, but it’s a different intensity,” he said about the long, quarantine-induced break he took from stage performing. “Singing like this really does whip your voice into shape.”

While some serious topics are covered in “Footloose,” overall it’s a fun musical. Dreier hasn’t danced in many theater productions he’s been in, so this show is a change of pace in more ways than one.

“I haven’t gotten to dance a lot,” he said. “There are serious elements, but it’s really a lot of fun.”

Junior Rylee Allen is playing Ariel, the minister’s rebellious daughter, in the show and said in a phone interview that it was easy to adjust to COVID guidelines while in rehearsals.

“It’s been going great,” she said. “It’s been easy, surprisingly, to adjust to COVID. We’ve had to adjust dance numbers so we’re not too close to each other. But I don’t think it will affect the show at all.”

The crew is weaved into the show as well. Normally concealed from audience members, this year crew members are in costume as they move set pieces and props across the stage. Some of them are wearing choir robes, and others are dressed as dancers.

“We’re in costume as well,” senior crew member Samita Gupta said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on June 6. “Now we’re blending in as extras, almost. It’s exciting. It feels like a real team effort.”

Hugo Gilman is playing Willard, one of Ren’s friends in the show. “Footloose” is one of his favorite musicals, so he was excited to find out it would be coming to GRHS this year.

“I got a role that I love, even though I can’t dance very well,” the freshman joked in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on June 6. “I don’t know what it will look like. It’s all a question until we get up there and do it. But it’s exciting.”

Tickets for GRHS’ production of “Footloose” can be purchased online at Performances are on June 12 at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and June 13 at 11 a.m.

The show has been a welcome release for GRHS students, who have been isolated from one another for much of the last year.

“It’s been a process of getting my voice back and singing and dancing at the same time,” Allen said. “We have a lot of energy to get out after being locked down for so long.”