Cuttin’ loose

Marion County’s arts magnet school invites the community to a rollicking rendition of the musical “Footloose.”

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted April 4, 2024 | By Lisa McGinnes

West Port High School theater teacher Kate Messenger predicts audiences “can’t help but sing along” with the school’s “rocking” production she describes as “this generation’s answer to ‘Grease.’” The enthusiastic cast of 27 of the area’s most talented high school performing arts students have masterfully recreated the ’80s look, sound and moves for a show the director, music director, choreographer and cast all describe as “fun.”

Live on stage April 11-14, the musical “Footloose” reprises the familiar story from the 1984 hit movie: A Chicago teen moves to small town and goes toe to toe with the preacher who banned dancing–and cheek to cheek with the reverend’s rebellious daughter. The film’s Academy Award- and Grammy Award-nominated soundtrack, highlighted by Kenny Loggins’ title song, topped the Billboard chart for two months after its release.

“‘Footloose’ is one of those classic movies everyone has either seen or heard of … and is sort of cemented in pop culture, regardless of generation,” said Adam Pryor, West Port chorus director and the show’s musical director. “It is incredibly fun music that strays from the musical theater genre that perhaps most people expect when they think of a high school musical production.”

Pryor explained that he enlisted musicians from the school’s concert band and rock band for the pit orchestra, and–between the cast, backstage crew, musicians and technicians–more than 50 students are involved in the production.

“It has been exciting to learn ’80s rock songs and just jam out with these students,” Pryor said. “The cast is incredible and features some of the most talented singers I have had the pleasure to work with.”

Messenger, the show’s director, explained that she tries to select shows that will have a lot of opportunity to showcase the talent of the students she teaches.

“Directing this show has been an absolute blast,” she said. “Our cast and crew are so talented and we all truly enjoy the process. I love coming to rehearsal and watching them play, no pun intended. The show is delightful and fun to watch.” 

The cast members exuberantly sing and dance their way through 15 songs, with multiple production numbers choreographed by Kim Wise. 

“They’re a great group of young adults who work super hard,” Wise said. “I’ve had so much fun choreographing this, because it’s made me feel like I’m back in college again. That kind of music was the soundtrack of my years back then.”

Wise explained the musical includes “a little bit of country dancing” plus the style she remembers from school dances, with the “big showstopper” at the end containing “a couple of surprises.” Two of the smaller dance numbers were choreographed by students, which Messenger said allowed more collaboration between director and cast.

Just a year after his first onstage appearance in the school’s dinner theater performance of “The Odd Couple,” 18-year-old senior Xavier Rosado said “it’s very humbling” taking on the role of Ren, made famous by Kevin Bacon.  

“I think I have big shoes to fill and I’m going to work hard,” he said. “I just enjoy this character so much. My favorite thing about this character is he kind of resembles me, because I’m always dancing and always singing.” Plus, Rosado noted, he moved from New York to Ocala at the beginning of high school and feels the similarity with Ren, who feels “very out of place” at a new school in a new town.

“All of us are having fun,” Rosado continued, explaining that the cast, including female lead Marissa Boyd as Ariel, “genuinely all have great chemistry.”

“We have worked so hard on it, and we’re having fun doing it,” Rosado continued. “It’s so fun!”

“Footloose” is live on stage April 11-13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m. at West Port High School, 3733 SW 80th Ave. For tickets, visit

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