Auditions for “Footloose, the Musical,” based on the 1984 movie that starred Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer and John Lithgow, ran two days.
On the first day, director Ben Wagner found out who could sing. Those who could were invited back for a second audition to find out who could dance.
Those selected will show off their singing and dancing when the production opens Thursday, July 10 at Forest Lake High School. The show runs Thursday-Sunday for each of the next three weekends. Tickets are available at www.masquerstheatre.org.
The Rev. Moore
About a dozen men auditioned for the role of the Rev. Shaw Moore. One stood out.
“Brian walked in with a sense of flair,” Wagner said. “He was very friendly and had a terrific stage presence, a personality I thought was so infectious. Then he sang! He is ready to try anything, willing to just dive in.”
He’s referring to Brian Etienne, a veteran of many Masquers productions.
You may remember him as Mr. Fagin in “Oliver,” or as Levi, one of the brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (He also played the butler in the interpreting dreams scene.)
In “The Music Man,” one of his parts was a salesman on the train in the opening scene.
In “Fiddler on the Roof,” he was the Russian singer with the amazingly long note.
Etienne lives in St. Paul and works as a computer programmer for Health Partners in Bloomington. But for a while music was his livelihood.
“I used to play drums for Cat Stevens, Melissa Manchester and Amy Grant,” he said.
Etienne was in several bands in the 1970s and 1980s, he said, including the Brian Etienne Band.
They opened for big name acts, playing in every state in the lower 48.
He has degrees from Hamline University and Cardinal Stritch University and since the late 1980s has been building a résumé as an analyst at several Twin Cities companies.
But he still loves acting and is not above wearing tights if the role calls for it, as when he played Lefou in “Beauty and the Beast.”
“It takes a big man to wear pink panty hose on stage,” he quipped.
In addition to Masquers, Etienne performs with the Rosetown, Lakeshore, Ashland and Morris Park theater groups. He has sung the part of Curly from “Oklahoma,” played the Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz” and was cast as Kanute Gunderson in “Don’t Hug Me” musicals.
“Now music is my hobby,” he said, “but it’s what I’d rather do.”
In “Footloose, the Musical,” Etienne plays the local pastor. The role of his rebellious daughter Ariel went to Cami Sells.
A graduate of Chisago Lakes High School, Sells is majoring in social studies education at St. Cloud State University.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Sells said. “I never wanted to be anything else.”
This is her fourth Masquers production. She was a narrator for “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and sang in the chorus for “Music Man” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
She also participated in high school theater and community theater in St. Cloud.
At St. Cloud State she takes voice training and sings in concert and chamber choirs. She has had no formal dance training.
“Cami has a wonderful voice,” Wagner said.
Sells is happy to be part of this Masquers production, with a young director and some different actors in the cast.
“I auditioned for this part,” Sells said, but “I would have taken any part.”
She comes from a supportive family, she said, and also has had a few inspiring teachers, especially “Mr. Collins and Mrs. Lundholm.”
She likes to listen to country music, including singers Tim McGraw, Hunter Hayes and Martina McBride.
Given the choice of what history course to teach, Sells said she would choose World War II or the Vietnam era in the U.S.
Her role in “Footlose” is fairly complex. She has to be believable as a rebellious teenager who is with her boyfriend only for the sex (the number “The Girl Gets Around” is about her) and also as the source of the Bible quotations that her new boyfriend uses to argue in favor of dancing in front of the town council.
Her new boyfriend, Ren, is played by Chuck Love.
Love graduated from Chisago Lakes High School in 2012 and finished a conservatory degree at AMDA in Los Angeles last fall.
At Chisago Lakes High School he was in four musicals: “Annie,” “High School Musical” (he played Chad), “Oklahoma” (Will) and “Hello, Dolly” (Cornelius).
As a high school freshman, he also played youngest brother Benjamin in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Masquers.
“When people think ‘Footloose,’ they think Kevin Bacon,” Love said. So imagine their surprise when they realize Ren’s ancestors are from Puerto Rico and Barbados.
“My great-grandparents lived in Mississippi, and my grandparents moved to Minnesota,” he said. “My grandma had 18 kids.”
Love was born and raised in Minnesota, but it wasn’t an easy start. He bounced around from foster home to foster home, he said, not getting too close to anyone because he knew the situation was temporary. He said he was verbally and physically abused.
In seventh grade he was adopted by a pastors’ family that he had known since kindergarten.
“When I lived in Wyoming, a lady took us to Chisago to church every Wednesday,” he said. “I embraced being a Christ follower when I was young. In second grade at camp, I gave my life to Christ.”
His new parents, both in ministry at Faith Assembly of God in Chisago City, never pushed him to go to church, he said.
“I would go because I had a heart for it.”
Love said he grew up fast and credits faith for his positive attitude.
“I believe God gave me the ability to not let it drag me down and hold me down for the rest of my life,” he said.
In school, he played every sport in junior high. In high school, he had to drop football to be in the musical. He still made it to football games, though, leading a fan club and cheering section.
“I wanted to be a leader of a crowd of people,” he said. “We had 300 to 400 kids at a game. We’d color coordinate. We had specific chants and cheers.”
His brother was on the team and now plays football for the University of Minnesota. But Love instead ended up at the performing arts college in Los Angeles.
He was thinking of where to go to school when a good friend mentioned the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.
It was an incredible program, hard to get into, “but worth a shot,” he said. He applied.
When representatives of the school came to Minnesota, he auditioned, not thinking he would make it.
Others trying out at the same time talked of flying in from New York after auditioning at Juilliard. This did not make him hopeful.
Going in, he was really nervous, he said. Two cameras recorded his moves in a skyway room of nothing but windows; he could see the whole city of Minneapolis.
“I had a funny monologue and a serious one,” Love said. “I embraced myself, thinking ‘This is something I love to do. If it works out, it’s meant to be.’”
Two weeks later he got a call. He had been awarded the director’s outstanding audition scholarship, meaning a full ride.
In California he focused on film acting and took dance classes. His teachers had high-level experience and valuable connections in the industry. He learned the ropes of musical theater, how to be extremely real in a scene, how to master a character. And he condensed the two-year program to finish early.
“I always had a heart for ministry,” Love said. “The thing I really want to do is youth evangelism.”
Now he is an intern at River Valley Church in Apple Valley as pastor’s assistant and assistant director of youth ministries. He may go to Bible college on his path to becoming a motivational speaker.
But he’ll still do musical theater. As Ren, the boy from the city who loves to dance, Love can show what he learned and perhaps inspire younger actors to pursue the dream.
Wagner praises the cast, both the lead characters and the supporting roles.
“It’s got some great singing. The movement, dancing is very good,” he said. “They are the most eager cast I’ve ever worked with. I catch myself just watching and discovering new things, even though I’ve seen it a million times. It surprises me how good they are.”