Marquee: Summer musical brings home the Bacon with 'Footloose'

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Dancing, singing, tractors and cars will fill the stage along with 68 cast members for this year's summer musical performance of "Footloose."

The musical is based on the 1984 Kevin Bacon film "Footloose," the true story of a small town. Ren moves with his mother from Chicago to a farming town where dancing and rock music are banned because of an accident in Rev. Shaw's family.

Following Ren's determined efforts to remove the ban and Rev. Shaw's loss, the audience members will find themselves deeply involved in a heart-touching story that's sure to make their feet want to dance.

The diverse cast includes children as young as 3, many college-age members and adults who love theater.

Within the cast are many family members who have been cast as family members for the show. Having parents with children and siblings gives a very real feeling to the family dynamic of the show, director Jessica Barkl said. The cast has been rehearsing since April and hopes to wow the crowd with the music and dance of "Footloose."

Though the summer musical is designed for the entertainment of audiences, it is also designed as a vehicle for scholarships. Sponsored by the Walla Walla Community College Foundation, each year the summer musical raises money for high school students with outstanding grades. Last year, these merit-based scholarships gave 13 students, including Alex Rodighiero, two years of full tuition at the college.

Rodighiero dove in at WWCC, becoming involved in many areas of the school. He is majoring in education and hopes to teach high school math when he is finished. Rodighiero now works at the Foundation and is experiencing all the hard work that goes into producing the summer musical to provide this funding.

"It felt really good to be able to see how it worked and to know that I had to work to get the scholarship," Rodighiero said. "It wasn't just handed to me." People don't realize how much work goes into this production, he said, remembering the thousands of brochures sent to community members, the posters placed around town and the general preparation for the event.

The musical is also a chance for cast and crew members to earn five college credits, paid for by the foundation.

Barkl will be directing the summer musical for the second time on the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater stage, though theater is nothing new for the WWCC professor. While growing up in Idaho, Barkl first saw the 1970s version of "King Kong" and connected with Jessica Lange because of their shared first names and claimed, "I want to do that." It was only a matter of time before Barkl was acting in theater as she had declared to do a few years before. Using money earned from baby sitting she signed up for dance classes, was given a scholarship for voice and acting lessons and was soon even more involved in theater. Barkl was cast in nearly 50 plays before her 17th birthday.

"If I hadn't had theater, I'm sure I wouldn't be as successful as I am now," she said. "The great thing about theater is you get to be someone else."

This specific production will be fun for Barkl because of the nostalgic feel of the 1980s classic.

She is bringing a piece of her own '80s memorabilia to the stage: her 1981 Camaro. Her car, tractors and a truck will help bring the story to life on the outdoor stage.

"It's good music, it's fun and there's a tractor on stage," Barkl said.

The production should appeal to rebelling teenagers, parents dealing with them and fans of the '80s.

Jennifer Jorgenson can be reached at jenniferjorgenson@wwub.com.

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