Trumbull High looks to cut loose with ‘Footloose’

TRUMBULL — Jessica Spillane knows the past two years have been hard on the students she works with at Trumbull High School.

Spillane, an English teacher and theater teacher at the school, remembers when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down school right before students were to perform the annual spring musical, of which she is the artistic director. The next year, she led another group of students through a production of the musical “Working,” this time with full COVID-19 protocols, including masking, social distancing and virtual auditions.

Now, many of the school’s COVID protocols have been lifted, and everyone was looking for an opportunity to cut loose after two gloomy years, she said. And Spillane knew the perfect musical to boost everyone’s spirits.

“We were looking for something that brought joy and fun to the stage,” she said. “And ‘Footloose’ fits the bill.”

Based largely on the 1984 movie of the same name, “Footloose” tells the story of Chicago teen Ren McCormack, who moves to a small town with this mother. He quickly runs afoul of the local preacher, who has convinced town authorities to outlaw dancing. Drama, romance and lots of dancing obviously ensue.

Trumbull High School’s production of “Footloose” opens at 7:30 p.m. March 18, and runs over two weekends.

The stage musical retains may of the movie’s hit songs, including the title track, “Let’s Hear it For the Boy” and “Holding Out for a Hero.” The upbeat show is a balm both for those in the show, and those who will see it, Spillane said.

“There’s lots of dancing and lots of bright colors,” she said. “It’s just a super high-energy, fun show. It seems like just thing everybody needed and wanted after two very challenging years.”

Bringing the musical to the stage was a different process than it was last year, Spillane said. Last year, she said, rehearsals began virtually, and when they shifted to in-person performances, everyone was fully masked and social distanced.

For “Footloose,” she said, “we’re pretty close to normal.” Students were fully masked during rehearsal in January and February. After Trumbull Public Schools went mask optional on Feb. 28, students had the choice to rehearse maskless. Social distancing also isn’t a factor this time around, Spillane said.

“We weren’t using any of the distancing any more,” she said. “People were dancing right next to each other.”

One of the funniest things about choosing “Footloose” as this year’s musical, Spillane said, is that many of the performers weren’t familiar with the original movie starring Kevin Bacon. To remedy that, she screened the movie for the teens at the start of the musical season.

“It’s a very old-fashioned movie to them,” Spillane said.

Tickets and showtimes for “Footloose” are available at thsmusicals.com.