theatre review

Theatre Under the Stars
Malkin Bowl, Stanley Park
July 14 - August 21

Theatre Under the Stars is one of the great Vancouver institutions, although it’s not named as accurately as it could be. True, by the time darkness falls after intermission on a clear night, you’re watching musical theatre under the stars. But that could be the case in any outdoor playhouse. The real beauty of TUTS is that you get to watch it outdoors in glorious Stanley Park. In Act One of Footloose when our rebellious hero Ren lets out a shout, the eagle nesting atop one of the tall cedars overlooking Malkin Bowl starts to chirp and twitter. In how many other theatres can an actor get upstaged by an eagle!

Based on the movie with Kevin Bacon, Sarah Jessica Parker as a small-town gal(!), and a pop score by the likes of Kenny Loggins and Sammy Hagar, Footloose tells the story of a big-city boy who moves to an uptight small town and teaches it how to rock out, dancing off with the hotblooded daughter of the town’s puritanical preacher, who has a ridiculous change of heart at the end. It’s a pretty generic story that, in this version, almost grinds to a sorry halt by spending way too much time with the boring subplot of the preacher and his wife. But when it sticks with the young folks, this show really flies.

Driving it are a surprising number of very good songs—especially the uptempo “Footloose,” “The Girl Gets Around” and “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”—along with fine performances from the attractive young principals, and a large, energetic ensemble of dancers. Danny Balkwell is terrific as Ren, his dancing a standout. Katie Murphy matches his singing and dancing as the sexiest preacher’s daughter TUTS has seen in years. And her talented chorus of girlfriends—Alana Hibbert, Sophie Olson and Daniella Goodman—are real crowd-pleasers.

Every so often you’re reminded by some coarse and undisciplined acting (I know it’s called Footloose, but sometimes an actor just has to stand still for a few seconds) that this is a mostly amateur cast. But it’s still a delightful show, one of the best theatrical deals in town, and a quintessential Vancouver experience.

Jerry Wasserman

Note: I made a mistake in the original draft of this review which I've now corrected, confusing Footloose with Dirty Dancing and so putting Jennifer Grey in the movie. This was sloppy writing on my part--I neglected to fact-check using If you catch any errors in my reviews, please let me know.

last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2004 8:11 PM
website design by Linda Fenton Malloy