Students learn more than just moves in their latest spring production

Winslow Township High School will stage “Footloose” March 22 to 24.

The cast of “Footloose” rehearse the closing scene of act 1 in preparation for the show’s opening night on March 22.

Students of Winslow Township High School are cutting loose and kickin’ off their Sunday shoes.

From March 22 to 24, the drama department’s spring musical production of “Footloose” will run in the school’s theater, featuring 7:30 p.m. showings on Friday and Saturday, as well as a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

Winding back many moons to the 1980s, the 21st century students have been channeling acid-wash jeans and shoulder pads since rehearsals started in early January.

Although the original movie version premiered in 1984, the theatrical team wanted to sustain its staging of contemporary shows, as last year the high school produced the Tony Award-winning musical, “In the Heights.”

“We had such a great time with ‘In the Heights,’ because we really loved that it was more modern and had a lot of dancing, and the music was so much fun,” said Savanna Heffner, drama director and theater teacher. “We were trying to keep up with something that could have that pizazz.”

Because the show was so dance-heavy and featured strong male and female roles, “Footloose” aligned with the batch of talent demonstrated by Winslow students.

The show encomapasses nearly 58 cast members and around 50 crew members.

“I just thought this was the perfect show that would work for the student body that we have now,” Heffner said. “We have a great amount of dancers, vocalists and actors this year. And with this show, you need the combination of all three, so it worked out perfectly.”

She says easing the students into 1980s culture has been an interesting challenge.

Throughout rehearsals, the cast studied the era’s spunky attire. Many of them already had staple articles of clothing in their closest that could work for the show.

Despite their objective to retain the show’s original content, audiences will notice a few contemporary flairs fused into the toe-tapping techniques of Kevin Bacon, as the cast says some modern-day moves will surface in the choreography.

“We let them do a couple hints of more modern-style dancing,” Heffner said.

Such twists can also be heard in the characters’ accents. While the Broadway musical version does not have a concrete setting, the story is supposed to unfold somewhere in the South or Midwest, which requires the cast to speak in a country-like style.

However, speaking roles are making some of these accents their own, as junior Aaliyah Bassirou, who plays the role of Rusty, is tweaking her articulation with a slightly higher pitch.

“I’m going to put my own twang to the country accent,” she said.

Senior Kirk Slingluff plays hillbilly Willard Hewitt. He is specifically studying the articulation of iconic characters such as Forrest Gump.

“Keeping that really slow, laid back sound — I think that was my biggest inspiration for tackling the voice,” he said.

While the 1980s style and Southern slang might be novel for some, especially fellow peers, the cast says the teenaged themes of “Footloose” will resonate with young audiences.

The story encourages adolescents to embrace change and fight for what’s right — even if that simply means expressing oneself through dance and music, as in this show, such luxuries are outlawed.

Teenagers can also relate to the parental and religious authorities, which are major themes of the show.

“Kids should learn to stand up for what they believe in, and maybe they will get what they want out of it,” Bassirou said.

“It’s understanding that sometimes older generations can be a little stuck in the past and not everything that might be looked on as negative is always negative,” Slingluff added. “There are positive connotations to things and in this retrospect is dance.”

Tickets to “Footloose” cost $10 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Call (856) 767–1850 for more information.