Based on the ’80s movie, a teenager sets out to teach a Texas town how to dance again

Footloose is the fun, energetic musical based on the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon. You know the one, where a teenage boy from Chicago is forced to move to a small town in Texas and struggles to fit in. When he learns that dancing is outlawed, he makes a plan to bring it back for the seniors’ last school dance.

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse brings this production to the stage with a huge ensemble cast, high-powered dance numbers and memorable hit songs.

Adapted for the stage by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie, Footloose gets the audience bopping along with its 20-plus actors as they dance, jive and sing their way out of the boredom a small town brings. Directed and choreographed by Cole Emarine, Footloose tells the story of Ren (Ethan Walker) and his mother, Ethel (Allison Hatch) as they adapt to their new home after Ren’s father leaves them. Ren finds it difficult to adjust to his new town and school, especially with that whole no-dancing thing.

As it usually does, Candlelight manages to successfully pull off big scenes with a stage full of performers. With this show, I did at times find it difficult to hear all the words being sung. Whether it was a sound issue or simply too many voices active at once, I found I preferred the songs with only one to three singers. With them, I could make out the lyrics more easily and follow along with the story. One song in particular that stood out was “The Girl Gets Around,” performed by Chuck (Hugh Butterfield), Lyle (Zach Bane), and Travis (Ryne Haldeman). This song introduces us to Ariel (Susanna Ballenski), Ren’s love interest — if he can steal her away from Chuck.

Other tunes you’re sure to recognize include “Let’s Hear it for the Boys,” sung by Rusty (Sarah Forman) whose big voice shines as she dances through the soda shop; “Almost Paradise”; and, of course, “Footloose.” The high energy of this final number left the crowd singing along and bouncing in their seats.

Beyond the pop-music overtones in Footloose, we also see the struggles of a town recovering from a great loss — and it’s the reason why dancing and “devil music” is outlawed by Rev. Shaw (Thomas Castro), Ariel’s father. As Ren falls for Ariel and befriends Willard (Ethan Lee Knowles) — who provides lots of laughs with his two left feet and his penchant for fighting — we get to know the high schoolers as they work together to ensure their final dance can indeed include dancing. The town eventually finds hope in its young people, those they were ultimately trying to protect by outlawing dancing of any kind.

The stage transformed from a church to a school gym to a train yard where Ren and Ariel go to scream their fears and sadness away. I especially enjoyed being able to see the six-person orchestra in the back of the set against a starry night sky.

The production was lighthearted and fun and left many audience members, including myself, dancing in our seats and singing along with the familiar songs. You’ll have plenty of time to catch it, since Footloose plays at the Candlelight through November 14.