Dakota High School students, led by leads senior Lorenzo Santiago, center in white tank top, and senior Nicole Hollinsky, left center in red shirt, rehearse their production of “Footloose.” The show plays Feb. 8-10 and 15-17.

Dakota High School students, led by leads senior Lorenzo Santiago, center in white tank top, and senior Nicole Hollinsky, left center in red shirt, rehearse their production of “Footloose.” The show plays Feb. 8-10 and 15-17.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Dakota theater students bring modern adaptation of ‘Footloose’ to the stage

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 30, 2018

 The Dakota production of “Footloose” is set in modern times and combines dancing, singing and acting for the cast and crew of around 100 students.

The Dakota production of “Footloose” is set in modern times and combines dancing, singing and acting for the cast and crew of around 100 students.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — In the fall, Dakota High School senior Lorenzo Santiago will head to college. It may be at New York University, where he has been accepted, or another college, but Santiago knows he will study musical theater.

Throughout his time at Dakota, Santiago said he has had a chance to grow his dancing and singing skills, but it wasn't until he got the lead role as Ren in the upcoming "Footloose" production that he had the opportunity to expand his acting chops.

"I have always been a really strong dancer and, throughout high school, my singing has grown, but I never really had the chance to pursue acting," Santiago said. "As Ren, I have so much stage time, and it has been enlightening for me to be Ren as our stories are so similar, but also so different.

"This production has really stretched me as an actor and made me want to pursue musical theater even further."

"Footloose" will debut at Dakota High School at 7 p.m. Feb. 8, with shows taking place at the same time Feb. 9-10 and 15-17. Just as it expanded Santiago's skills, the show as a whole brings the acting, singing and dancing together for an ambitious and much-anticipated musical for the cast and crew.

Director Kelly Schmidt said they have had "Footloose" on the list of musicals they have wanted to do for some time before deciding to do it at the end of last year. Not only are the current students excited, she said, but alumni have reached out to tell Schmidt how jealous they are.

"Footloose" was originally a 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon before it became a musical in 1998. A remake of the movie was also made in 2011.

With the original movie beloved by many, Schmidt said they made a conscious effort to make the Dakota production stick out. The script still focuses on Ren moving from Chicago to the rural town of Bomont, but it will be set in a modern, ambiguous year.

"If you are looking for leg warmers and side ponytails, you won't find it on our stage," Schmidt said. "Our stage is incredibly large and advanced. Students will be performing on high platforms, in the audience, jumping through windows and entering from hidden areas to give the audience the feel of being in their fictional town of Bomont."

As her 29th production at Dakota, Schmidt said one of the biggest challenges with "Footloose" has been the set design and technical aspects of the show. The focal point is a large bridge structure, designed by Darrin Hollinsky, the father of student Nicole Hollinsky, with the help of several other parents.

There are also a lot of movable set pieces,  and the show will incorporate LED light sticks to bring a more contemporary feel to the production.

While the bridge is the big centerpiece on the set, Schmidt said they have scenes set in locations such as a hoedown, a nightclub, a high school dance and a dream sequence.

"The show is big, bright, funny and very high energy," Schmidt said. "Students are constantly moving (and) dancing in quick changes and scene changes."

The production incorporates over 100 students as part of the cast, technical crew, production crew and the pit orchestra.

Nicole Hollinsky, a senior at Dakota, will play the second lead, Ariel, opposite of Santiago's Ren. This is Hollinsky's seventh show with Dakota since her freshman year.

Hollinsky said she feels the dancing in the production is what sets "Footloose" apart from the other shows she has been a part of. The show also utilizes a diverse cast, something that wasn't part of the fictional rural town in the movie.

"I have been doing competition dancing since I was younger, and there is a lot of dancing in this big production, so it is good to have that experience," Hollinsky said. "A lot of the cast are dancers, and we have a very diverse cast, which is something new for 'Footloose.' I think we have a lot of strong actors to bring life into these characters."

Tickets to the show cost $10 or $15, depending on the seat. Tickets are available online at dakotamusical.seatyourself.biz, or at the door 30 minutes before the show if tickets are not sold out in advance.