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Tea Area High School gets ready to cut loose with ‘Footloose’

Tea Area High School students are preparing to bring “Footloose” The Musical to life on April 19 and April 20. Directed by Mary Beth Sutton, this production promises to deliver an amazing performance that will have audiences tapping their feet and singing along.

“I have been producing, co-directing and directing Middle School and High School plays and musicals here in Tea on and off since the Spring of 2008 starting with the show ‘Little Shop of Horrors’,” said Sutton. “As a director, you never ‘pre-cast’ a show but you have to look at the talent available and think about what shows would work best in your situation.”

This thought process led Sutton to choose “Footloose”.  

“I collaborated with Assistant Director and music Director Tim Dingman and we selected Footloose from a shortlist of options,” said Sutton. 

What makes this production particularly special is the collaboration with Tea Area High School alumna Shannon Dancler, who is choreographing songs for the show. 

“The students love her vision and the energy she brings to the songs to make them come alive is so fun to see,” said Sutton. 

The cast is filled with talented performers who have been dedicated to perfecting their roles since auditions were held February 12 and 13. From veteran actors like Isaac Bullis, who arrived at his first rehearsal completely memorized and ready to perform, to freshman actors taking on multiple roles, the ensemble promises to deliver a memorable performance.

Bullis will be playing the part of Chuck Cranston. Sutton was so impressed with his audition of having his feature song ‘The Girl Gets Around’ literally show ready.

“He is a good role model for the younger actors,” said Sutton. 

There are others too that provide leadership in the cast. 

“We have a great balance of senior leadership with Nick Dunkelberger and Brayden Cambier and younger freshman actors with Avianna Steen as the lead of Ariel and Riley Clark as Ren,” Sutton added.  “The students have this amazing energy and they bring it to every rehearsal. They are doing super job developing their characters and trusting the creative process.”

The full cast and who they will be portraying includes the following: Ren McCormack—Riley Clark; Ethel McCormack—Sage Fanning; Rusty—Claire Hank; Wendy Jo—Melanie Roeman; Urleen—Kimberlee Brockberg; Reverend Shaw—Brayden Cambier; Vi Shaw—Kassidy Wranek; Ariel Shaw—Avianna Steen; Lulu Warnicker—Myranda Schasna; Wes Warnicker—Jackson Johanson; Coach Dunbar—Nick Dunkelberger; Eleanor Dunbar—Sophya Elkins; Chuck Cranston—Isaac Bullis; Travis—Sam Bullis; Lyle—Jacob Birger; Pete—Henrik Rimmer; Willard Hewitt—Arden McGraw; Principal Clark—Skylynn Broesder; Cop—Cozmo Deleeuw; Betty Blast—Cassie Waltner; Bickle—Sam Bullis; Jeter—Jacob Birger; Garvin—Henrik Rimmer; Company/Townspeople/Kids—Kairis Thomas, Jadyn Bowen, Ella Cambier, Leah Walder, Aubrianna Parker, Salem Donnelly, Ashlee Battelson, Hannah Broughton; and Cowboy Bob—Cozmo Deleeuw

Despite facing challenges with limited rehearsal space and resources, the cast and crew have persevered with determination.  

“Over the years, I have affectionately called our performance space in the HS gym, ‘the gymatorium’. We face many, many challenges with lighting, sound and getting to rehearse on the performance stage only four times the week of the show,” said Sutton, but she praised the students’ adaptability, saying, “The students do an amazing job of adjusting their spacing and incorporating set changes, etc. in just four days.”

The production has also received support from the wider theatre community, with sets borrowed from other schools and costumes sourced from various sources. 

“We do not yet have a scene shop or a costuming department but the theatre community has been very helpful. We have borrowed set pieces from Jefferson High School and the Crystal Theatre in Flandreau and costumes from O’Gorman and Harrisburg,” said Sutton. 

“Rebecca Hyronimus has been a huge help putting all the costumes together.  My husband Dan has helped with additional choreography and set design. Stephanie Wranek has let us take over storing costumes in the High School band uniform room and Janice Gilbert has graciously let us rehearse and store set pieces in the HS choir room,” Sutton added.

The cast has been rehearsing since Feb. 26 with most rehearsals in the evenings from 5 to 7 or 8 p.m.

“We have had a couple of choreography rehearsals with Shannon Dancler on Saturday mornings,” added Sutton. “The students learn the dancing really quickly.”

“Footloose” will be performed at Tea Area High School on Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, April 20 with a matinee at 2 p.m. followed by an evening show at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Looking towards the future, Sutton expressed excitement about the opening of the new Performing Arts Center, which she believes will revolutionize theatre productions at Tea Area High School. 

“Opening the new Performing Arts Center will be a game changer for the theatre and music department. I get goosebumps just thinking about the possibilities of what future theatre productions will look and sound like,” said Sutton. “I can share that there will be a musical to open the PAC April 25 and 26, 2025 but I have to leave you wondering what show might be selected for the debut.”


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