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They just wanna dance
Gainesville High gets Footloose
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Gainesville High School's Drama Department is putting on "Footloose" Tuesday through Oct. 9 at The Ware House. Adults from the local community are also taking part in the school's production. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

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Listen as drama dad Wendell Couch sings "I Confess" during rehearsal for "Footloose" at Gainesville High School.

They’re playing so cool, obeying every rule.

Except, of course, that whole "no dancing" thing. But you can’t expect a bunch of teenagers to grow up not dancing, can you?

Thus is the struggle in "Footloose," Gainesville High School Drama Department’s latest production. Based on the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon (and featuring future "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker), GHS’s production has another twist: All the adults in the production are played by adults in the community.

The twist allows the younger characters to focus on typical issues of rebellion, love and teen angst while older characters struggle with their own issues of adulthood: enforcing the rules, marital issues and just parenting in general.

"For me, as a director, I want to challenge, and I want it to be different from the time we produced it before; and we have many talented students, but of our students, they are fairly young, and will they be as convincing playing age?" asked director and Gainesville High drama teacher Pam Ware, who selected the production about seven or eight years ago. "So I decided this would be a good time to pull some of the community theater folks in to work with us."

But not everyone in the cast has theater experience. For example, GHS parent Wendell Couch — who plays the Rev. Shaw Moore, the father who leads the charge to ban dancing in the small Texas town where the production takes place — is a banker in real life and hasn’t done acting or singing since high school.

Audiences also can catch GHS campus police officer Charles Newman playing the town cop and basketball coach Todd Cottrell drawing from his real-life experiences to play a coach. Michelle Alexander, vocalist for the local band Mid-Life Crisis, will play the preacher’s wife, Vi Moore.

Among the students, some say they draw from a natural teen rebellion to play the roles of kids who want to put on a high school dance — in a town that has banned the form of expression.

Angie Highsmith plays the lead character Ariel Moore, who struggles for independence from her overprotective father and just wants to express herself. Along with her friends and senior Robert Whelchel, who plays town newcomer Ren McCormack (Bacon’s character in the film), the teens try to stage a dance with or without the adults’ approval.

"I stand up for things I believe in, but I don’t have as much energy and devotion to it as my character Ariel does," Highsmith said.

The high-energy show opens and closes with ensemble dance numbers, and cast members also are featured in solos throughout the production.

Whelchel said even though the cast watched the 1984 version of the story before starting rehearsals, they all try to make the characters their own

"Any show you do you’re trying to make it your own, so I’m definitely not growing a mullet like Kevin Bacon did," he said. "An updated hairstyle and just trying to make it that cocky guy who knows he’s good looking, and trying to bring dancing to the hick town."

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