r2p FootloosePublicityPhoto1Erin Hilgartner as Ariel and Christian Henry as Ren

Fancy footwork, great songs – the musical 'Footloose' is just as much fun as the movie. Running to Places' (R2P) production is the perfect summer romp, a dancing spectacular for all ages, Aug. 11-13 at Ithaca High School's air-conditioned Kulp Auditorium.

When urban teen Ren McCormack (Christian Henry) moves to small-town Bomont, he's shocked to discover his beloved dancing has been declared illegal by the town's uptight pastor, Rev. Shaw Moore (Elijah Speight). Ren's new friend Willard (Jasper Fearon) cautions him against any fancy moves, but Ren's just gotta dance. Love as well as teen rebellion is in the air, with romance blossoming between Ren and Moore's daughter Ariel (Erin Hilgartner) and Willard and the gregarious Rusty (Addy Whitener). Ren's mom Ethel (Cameron Park-Miller), and Ariel's mom Vi (Niaa Dowell) stand by their kids, even when Ren's passion for dance quickly leads to trouble.

"It's a perfect popcorn musical for mid-August, just what you think it's going to be: 80's pop songs come to life and amazing dancing," says Joey Steinhagen, R2P's artistic director.

But, he adds, "it's got an amazing amount of heart. Rev. Shaw's relationship with his daughter is thoughtful and complicated and painfully true. I appreciate the depth and substance of the show, on top of all the fun stuff."

Audience goers who remember the 80's and the 1984 musical with Kevin Bacon will enjoy the nostalgia-tinted memories of the music and costumes, some of which may well be raided from cast parents' closets, according to Liz Woods, costume designer.

The songs include such favorites as 'Footloose,' 'Holding Out for a Hero,' and 'Let's Hear it for the Boy.' These are not easy songs to sing, let alone while dancing, says Jeremy Pletter, resident music director: they were written for pop superstars, not for musical theater. "It takes a certain amount of skill and athleticism to belt these out while dancing, but this is the cast to do it," says Pletter.

Big dance numbers abound in the show, brought to life by choreographers Tucker Davis and Fatima Sowe. "The company includes some really strong dancers, and Tucker is so gifted in bringing out more in the kids than they thought they could do," says Steinhagen.

The challenge when adapting a musical from a movie is that film directors can shoot every scene in a different place. The R2P set, designed by Deb Drew, is a simple unit, giving the audience room to transform it with imagination and classic theater magic, while providing space for the big dance numbers.

R2P did 'Footloose' in 2009, its second season. Steinhagen notes how different this production is: "The level just keeps rising each year of what the actors are capable of. It's fun to revisit these shows as the company mature and strengthens."

'Footloose' runs Aug. 11-13, Friday and Saturday at 7 PM, Sunday at 2 PM.