Director Anna Lisa Johannessen couldn’t say “no” when it came to casting for this month’s Lincoln Theatre Guild performance of “Footloose.”
She accepted all ages and performance skills of individuals interested in acting in the stage adaptation of the classic 1980s movie.
The show proves timeless and applicable for all generations, illustrating through song and dance the prominent themes of hope and forgiveness.
“It’s a message of hope, acceptance and coming to terms with life’s hurts,” Johannessen said.
She believed the show would spur at least one person, maybe even multiple audience members, to let go of any inner suffering plaguing them — suffering similar to that of character “Rev. Shaw Moore,” Bomont’s famous town preacher, who banned dancing in the community after his son and three other community high schoolers died years earlier in a car crash while headed home from a party where dancing and drinking occurred.
“Somebody in this audience is going to get released,” Johannessen said.
She said she called on some of her closest theater friends to participate in the musical and contribute to behind-the-scenes duties such as sound, lighting and set building.
After spending time away from the stage for almost 20 years, Johannessen decided it was time to return — and she did, applying to direct her first show in Lincolnton.
“It was more like a calling,” she said.
Both her and husband, John Locke, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Vale, participated in plays growing up and have always possessed a passion for theater arts.
She also relied on her daughter Hailey Smith, Jason Sigmon and Lincolnton’s Xtreme Edge Dance Studio owner, Kim Noles, to teach cast choreography to the cast, from elaborate dance numbers to small-scale moves.
Vocal coaches for the production included Sherry Duncan, Luke Sain, Paige Rice and Carla Canaday.
More than acting, dancing and singing, the biggest show goal Johannessen set for her first major production in years revolved around incorporating excellent music.
which includes special arrangements by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
As a result, she enlisted the talent of college music majors and local Christian worship leaders to play in a live five-piece band.
Musicians include Lee Burnette, member of contemporary Christian rock band 7 Miles, once an opening act for chart-topping group Third Day and other popular bands in the particular music genre.
“The community of people it took to make this (musical) was immeasurable,” he said of the Theatre Guild show.
Following auditions in March, “Footloose” rehearsals commenced in April.
Johannessen even had cast members harness their acting energy and advertise the upcoming musical to the community by participating in flash mobs at Hog Happenin’, Relay for Life events and Lincolnton’s Homesteads Grille & Taphouse. The events were just a few of the many ways the group united and bonded over the last few months, making them a “family” of sorts.
“I love these people,” Burnette said of the cast and his fellow musicians.
Lincolnton High School graduate and seasoned musical performer Wesley Beard fills the lead role of “Ren McCormack,” a teen who moves from Chicago to Bomont with dancing skills and a eye for Rev. Moore’s rebellious daughter, “Ariel Moore,” played by Shelby resident and rising high school senior Cydney Wallace.
Wallace is also no stranger to the stage, taking part in productions with theater groups throughout the region as often as she can.
“Footloose,” however, is her first performance with the Lincoln Theatre Guild.
She described her character as an attention-craving teen who frequently rebels to shock people.
In addition to prompting crowd laughter and excitement, the show is sure to produce a variety of other emotions, including catharsis.
For Johannessen’s close childhood friend and “Footloose” production supervisor, Paige Rice, watching rehearsals over the last several weeks has brought her to tears, reminding her of her own acting days as a young girl and her mother’s consistent support and attendance at all her stage events.
“I felt what my mama felt when she watched me,” Rice said, “and that’s how I feel about these kids.”
“Footloose” performances will be 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Lincoln Cultural Center. Additional showings will be 7 p.m. June 27-28 and 3 p.m. June 29.
Cost is $11 for adults and $8 for seniors and students.
To purchase tickets, visit lincolntheatreguild.com or call (704) 452-7830. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.
Gale S. Elmore, CPA, is co-sponsoring the event.