Of all the dedicated theater artists, dancers are closest to the angels. Not just because they can soar above us ordinary mortals, which they can, but because of the admirable passion, discipline and tenacity they devote to their work. That is what raises the sparkling production of “Footloose” by Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford at Mattituck’s North Fork Community Theatre above ordinary fare.
The feel-good plot concerns characters who live in a community where dancing is against the law. They find a way to remedy the situation. That’s it.
But as directed and choreographed by Erin McKenna, it explodes with a youth-fueled energy that revs up the metabolism of the audience. It exudes the happiness and well-being we associate with beach books and escapist summer film comedies.
In spite of the fact that there is not a lot of room to breathe on the NFCT stage, Ms. McKenna fills the space with ever-changing original patterns, with an occasional refreshing example from vaudeville or variety (“Mama Says”).
In the same tasteful style, she balances riotous routines with rapturous renditions of ballads. We are elated by the appearances of Victoria Carroll, the irrepressible Becca Mincieli and Abbey Clark and we are enraptured by the beautiful singing of Tara McKenna (“Can You Find It in Your Heart”) and her lovely duet with the ebullient Amanda Mouzakes (“Learning To Be Silent”).
All this does not happen by chance. It results from the precision that characterizes dancers. Once the press visited a Jerry Robbins rehearsal and after watching a complicated section executed over and over again, a reporter asked, “How many more times are you going to do that?” Without a pause, Broadway’s foremost choreographer replied, “As many as it takes.”
Under the musical direction of Jacob Boergesson, a well-balanced pit band supports these extraordinarily good singers. The musical score has a large share of generic melody and the lyrics capitalize on cliché, but Mr. Boergesson inflects them with sensitivity and brassiness in equal parts.
James Yaiullo gives a believable, endearing performance as the hero, and the NFCT lucked out with a star-quality, professional performance from the attractive Ivy Croteau as his girl. Their duet of “Almost Paradise” is unforgettable.
Ryan Beodeker is excellent as the tortured minister who eventually “sees the light” on dancing. His “Heaven Help Me” and “I Confess” are heartbreaking. Billy Finn is all you could wish for as the “bad” boyfriend and his fierce version of “The Girl Gets Around” is stunning.
Dan Yaiullo gets even better every time we see him. He is always good, but here his sharp awareness of the seriousness of his situation blends with his talented singing and dancing into a marvelous performance.
Christina Stankewicz aces all her comic moments and moves us deeply with her heartfelt “Let’s Believe We’re in Love.” Justin Harris is at his best as the free-spirited Cowboy Bob. He is immensely enjoyable.
We all start life with freedom of movement. If you sing to a baby, both little legs fly up in the air and he wiggles his toes. But as life progresses, we settle for tapping a toe or drumming our fingers. “Footloose” will awaken your agility and set you free. There are eight more performances; don’t miss it.
North Fork Community Theatre
Old Sound Avenue, Mattituck
Performances continue Aug. 4-7 and 11-14: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2:30 p.m. For tickets, call 298-6328 or visit nfct.com.