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‘Cutting loose’ has never sounded this good

As far back as I can remember – which translates to last year – the music review page has featured mostly rock and other popular music CDs. This time, we thought we’d change things up a bit and bring a little culture with a nice old-fashioned musical and a review of the critically acclaimed soundtrack to the Broadway play “Footloose.”

The Broadway play was adapted from the 1984 movie, “Footloose” starring Kevin Bacon. It opened on Broadway in 1998 and starred Jeremy Kushnier as the lead, Ren McCormack. The story follows Ren’s move from Chicago to the small town of Bomont where dancing is outlawed.

The Broadway play was nominated for four Tony awards, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and Best Choreography.

Despite the fact that the show is not on Broadway anymore, the soundtrack still lives on with its lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Tom Snow.

I recently saw the play performed at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City for Broadway on the Boardwalk and, having never seen the play before, I was struck by the musical numbers, all featured on the original Broadway cast CD.

The CD opens with the first track, “Footloose/On any Sunday.” It is an upbeat track about work and life in general. Many people have probably heard the main lyrics, which state, “Been working so hard/I’m punching my card/Eight hours for what?/Oh tell me what I got.” The song continues with its anthem to less work and more fun, something everyone would love.

It’s the perfect song to dance to with its rock and roll beat before the song begins its transition to a more pop-oriented tune as Ren moves to Bomont and spends his first Sunday there in church with the rest of the town.

Probably my favorite track is number four, “Somebody’s Eyes,” in which the girls inform Ren that the town is so small that all secrets get around. With its very even drumbeats and low melodies, it maintains somewhat of an eerie feel. Probably the creepiest words are “You’ve got no disguise/From somebody’s eyes.” Take some time to think about that and how hard it would be to accept that somebody is always watching.

And this musical is not complete without its very own song for the women, “Holding Out for a Hero.” This song, which was not actually written for the play, is sung by the female leads and is a very catchy piece about looking for that perfect guy. As the lyrics say, “Somewhere after midnight … /Somewhere just beyond my reach/There’s someone reaching back for me.” The words and music just make you want to get up and dance with that special guy or girl (provided, of course, he or she has been found).

The soundtrack is filled with mostly up-tempo beats with a few songs reaching out to the spiritual side of its listeners as the Reverend, who has a great deal of power in the town of Bomont, sings softly about trying to raise his daughter right.

The CD boasts a beautiful love song, “Almost Paradise,” which also was not written specifically for the play. Its soft melody is the perfect fit for the two main characters to declare their love. It uses the soft sounds of the piano and the triangle to create a romantic atmosphere for the characters and the listener.

Another gem is the hilarious “Mama says (You can’t back down).” In it, Ren’s friend convinces him to go through with the plan to bring back dancing by providing advice he heard from his mother. Who hasn’t heard the advice, “Don’t use a toaster while standing in the shower” or “Don’t hold your breath for longer than an hour?”

The character sings in a western accent and the instruments, including a piano, give the song a real saloon-like feel. Of course, watching the actor sing it while wearing a cowboy hat, jeans and a flannel shirt can help add to this perspective.

All in all, this CD is definitely worth buying although I do recommend seeing the play first. There is a great deal of spoken exposition throughout the songs, but they make more sense once you know the story. The CD booklet does provide a full synopsis, so those who have not seen the play but want the music can follow that.

The CD has a wonderful mix of ballads and up-tempo beats telling the story of a young man who decides to help his new town by bringing back dancing. And, as they say in the title song, “Tonight I gotta cut loose/Footloose!”


Cast Recording

Q Records, 1998

4 stars


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