Teenager suffocated by small town rules
The Paschal Academy of Music "kicked off their Sunday shoes," March 10, 2006, with their original production of the 1980's musical Footloose . The play brought high school students together from the Columbia area to create two talented casts, each of which gave two performances.
"We really had an incredible ensemble of students this year," said director Dr. Rhoda Paschal. "I was really pleased with the performance."
The musical tells the story of Ren McCormick, a teenager from Chicago whose father walked out forcing him to move to the tiny town of Beaumont with his mother. Ren quickly finds himself suffocated by the town's strict rules, which outlaw, among other things, dancing. The town's rules are set by the local pastor, Reverend Moore, whose spiritual authority is the guiding force in the town. The Reverend's daughter, Ariel, is a rebel and refuses to abide by her father's standards. Together, she and Ren fight the system and bring dancing back to the town.
Paschal said she chose the play because it dealt with some deep themes that were common to a lot of students: family struggles, grief, and wanting to break free from restraints. It also had a variety of lead characters, which allowed her to cast the students according to their acting and singing ability.
The students who played Ariel and her sidekick, Rusty, for instance, had to be able sing higher and louder than the students who played the roles of the adults. Ariel was played by Lauren McFadden for Cast B and Shannon Turbeville in Cast A, and Rusty was played by Meredith Gratton for Cast A and Turbeville for Cast B.
The play was the result of two months of hard work. The students had to practice four days a week for three hours per day, and many nights didn't finish until after 10 pm. According to McFadden, the hardest part was the choreography.
"We had a lot of songs to learn," she said. "And a really large cast."
In the end, the work paid off, and the students' performances received several standing ovations. Some songs were upbeat and jazzy, complimented with creative and fun choreography. Others, such as the love song "Almost Paradise," were passionate and heartfelt.
"Altogether, I am very proud of how the students performed," said Paschal.