Drayton Entertainment’s production of Footloose takes stage Feb. 14

ST. JACOBS – The Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy has been gearing up for this year’s High School Musical production of Footloose, set to take the stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse from Feb. 14 to 25.

The High School Musical Production Program at Drayton Entertainment is offered free of charge to participants.

The production of Footloose is comprised of 50 students from 20 different high schools in the Wellington-Waterloo area.

“There are students leading every element to some level. So, it’s a full student cast,” said musical director Darryn DeSouza.

“When we start next week, it will be 85% student driven.” For example, there is a professional band but on guitar is a student.

“[The guitar] happens to be the most notable instrument in this show,” said DeSouza.

Although he said all theatres and entertainment companies are valuable, DeSouza told the Advertiser he has not seen a program for students go quite as far as Drayton Entertainment does.

“I don’t know that they would get this experience anywhere else, truthfully,” he stated.

Among the 50 students involved in the Footloose production, five of them are from Guelph.

On a gap year from the Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute, Ronan Hayes plays the lead in Footloose, Ren McCormack.

“It’s always fun to play a lead, because then you … have more to work with in terms of material [from] an acting standpoint,” said the 18-year-old.

He added being part of an ensemble is “fun,” but having a bigger part and acting is “more fun for me.

“It’s really nice to be able to dig into the character,” he said.

This is not Hayes’ first experience in theatre, but he told the Advertiser he got  away from it in high school as he picked up an interest in math and physics.

Getting back into theatre and acting is “definitely more for me,” he explained.

“It’s really nice to be in this professional setting for the community show. And also, the fact that it’s free is also really convenient.”

Drayton Entertainment’s associate artistic director and director of education David Connolly is the musical’s director and choreographer.

“[It’s] just so exciting. The next generation is so powerful and inspiring,” said Connolly.

“They’re just smart… This is proving to me that we’re in really good hands.”

Connolly told the Advertiser the students are “jugging so many things” in terms of school, exams, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities and family responsibilities.

“For them to be able to balance all of that and stay accountable to these thousands of people who have bought tickets to see their show is really noble,” he said.

The Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy has officially been around for nine years, but the academy itself, with “that brick and mortar” studio has been open for just two years this March.

Last year, the High School Project put on the Legally Blonde production.

Going into their second year, Connolly said academy officials now have a better idea of what to expect for Footloose.

“Last year was just blind faith that we would be able to figure it out,” he said.

“We’re really lucky, very fortunate to have done that. We learned lots about scheduling … when to start, how long rehearsals should be to try to take away some of the stress that was around last year. I think we’ve been successful.”

There is limited access for tickets to the show, but some are still available. Visit draytonentertainment.com for information.