Jerry Awards nominations Total 16 for “Footloose” by Whitewater High School Players

Editor’s Note: The information below was provided by Tom Ganser.

For the cast, tech crew, pit band, and adult directors of the Whitewater High School Players production of “Footloose” in November, 2021, the joyful cheers and applause of their audiences continued into January, 2022 with 16 nominations for the 2021-22 Jerry Awards.

The play was nominated for Outstanding Orchestra and Outstanding Overall Design.

Nominees for lead actor included Olive Coburn in her role as Vi Moore, Josh Kirley (Willard Hewitt), Haley Street (Rusty), Anderson Waelchli (Rev. Shaw Moore), and Marco Wence (Ren).

Brooke Mason (Wendy Jo), Madison Strickler (Ethel McCormack), and Alex Sullivan (Urleen) were nominated in the supporting actor category.

In the category of Production Team, Jim McCulloch was nominated for Outstanding Direction and Outstanding Lighting Design, McCulloch and Kat Dunham for Outstanding Scenic Design, and Tony Hanson and Shane Kinson for Outstanding Sound Design. 

Also selected for recognition were Outstanding Costume Design and Outstanding Stage Crew.

Kayla Mikos was voted by the cast and crew as the “Footloose” Spirit Award winner who will represent the production and perform with the other Spirit winners at the Jerry Awards in June. 

Photo by Tom Ganser

The Jerry Awards program encourages, recognizes, and honors excellence in high school musical theater.   Educators, industry professionals, and theater experts review productions, provide valuable feedback and advice, and honor schools and individuals’ achievements with category-based awards.

The WHS Players have participated in the program since 2014’s “The Drowsy Chaperone” and their 2018 staging of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” was honored as an Outstanding Musical.

“Footloose” was critiqued by three reviewers who attended either the Nov. 18 or the Nov. 19 performance. 

Jim McCulloch has served as director of WHS Players productions since “Anything Goes” in 2010.

After taking a look at the 22 pages of critique of  “Footloose” provided by the three reviewers, McCulloch said, “I always enjoy reading the comments that the reviewers provide, both good and bad.  Taking into account that it is one person’s perspective, I usually find them to be fair and accurate responses to what they saw on stage.  The constructive criticism is often useful to the production team and for performers to hear.  It helps all of us to learn from the experience and work on improving our skills for future productions.”

Margaret Wheeler, Choreographer for “Footloose,” said “The feedback was good for me and for the kids.”

As an example, Wheeler commented, “It would have benefitted the kids to see themselves dancing, with a dance mirror – which all dance studios have (which we didn’t have because it was a stage) – or perhaps a video of the dance to watch during rehearsal time.”

School and student achievements will be honored and featured in an awards show held at Madison Overture Center in June and two outstanding performers will be selected to represent the program at The National High School Musical Theater Awards (The Jimmys) competition in New York City.

Selected and brief excerpts from the reviewers’ extensive comments provide insights into what made “Footloose” a success.

Ensemble – “This ensemble kicked the dust off this ‘80s-themed jukebox classic, passing around the opening verses of the title song with big energy and bigger dance moves. They articulated well, with good projection and clarity, and the harmonies grew stronger in the transition to ‘On Any Sunday.’” (Reviewer 1)

Choreography & Dancing – “Overall, the style of choreography was appropriate for the musical. Using the whole stage and the different levels that it offered was impressive. The energy level of most of the actors was fun to watch.” (Reviewer 3)

Direction – “The crew and set changes were in and out at a nice pace, and I liked seeing the actors helping as well. Actors were incredibly prepared with their blocking and entrances and exits were strong. Incredible use of the set, using the levels to see the performers, but also to take us to different places in the storyline.”  (Reviewer 2)

Musical Direction & Orchestra – “The pit orchestra itself was a pleasure to hear, blended well, and tight on transitions. I particularly loved all the different percussion elements.  Overall the pit had a nice full sound. I can only imagine the charts for this musical are over the top fun and interesting to play.” (Reviewer 2)

Scenic Design – “Ren’s bright turquoise pants and roller skates stood out for all the right reasons, and Cole Schlicher (as Chuck Cranston) looked every inch the town bad boy in his fringe.  The lighting in this production was straightforward, with bold washes in blue, purple, and turquoise.  In ‘Holding Out for a Hero,’ a bleed to deep red coincided with the lyric ‘I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood’ – a nice touch.” (Reviewer 1)

Scene Change & Crew – “The scene changes during this production were fast and clean, with no substantial issues for the run of the show.  The show was called smoothly, and the pacing of scenes worked well.”  (Reviewer 3)

The reviewers also provided comments for the lead and supporting actors, including the following.

“Willard Hewitt was played by Josh Kirley, and after the first scene I couldn’t wait to see more of his performance. Such commitment to both comedic timing and awkward mannerisms that made the audience just adore Willard. Great physicality and Josh dove 100% into being that simple country bumpkin with a warm heart and a big smile. ‘Mama Says’ was icing on the cake.” (Reviewer 2)

“With Haley Street’s Rusty, the trio that included Alex Sullivan (Urleen) and Brooke Mason (Wendy Jo) was an absolute highlight of this production, from their snappy comic timing to their coordinated dance moves in ‘Hero’ and fine harmonies in ‘Somebody’s Eyes.’ Colorful and funny, they lifted every scene they were in.” (Reviewer 1)

The spring WHS Players production will be “Cinderella” in the WHS auditorium on Feb. 18 (7 p.m.), 19 (1 p.m. and 7 p.m.), and 20 (7 p.m.).

This new staged version of the classic story has comedy, poignancy, charm, and enchantment in just the right amounts.

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