Students shuffle set pieces backstage at Windermere High School’s theater as director Bambi-Ellen Fadoul delivers orders over a microphone. Neon-clad students go over lines, lyrics and dance steps.

It’s after school Friday, Sept. 20, and Windermere High thespians are gearing up to do a run-through of the latest production to hit the school’s stage: “Footloose: The Musical.”

It’s a production based off of the hit ’80s film starring Kevin Bacon and follows the story of Ren McCormack. After Ren’s father abandons him and his mother, the two move from their big-city home in Chicago to a small farming town in Oklahoma. Although Ren is prepared to adjust to a new town and a new school, he isn’t prepared for the town’s local laws — including a ban on dancing that was the idea of a local preacher, the Rev. Shaw Moore, in order to control the youths in the town. When the Rev. Moore’s rebellious daughter, Ariel, sets her sights on Ren, her boyfriend tries to sully Ren’s reputation.

“The musical differs (from the movie) in that they’ve given more of a story to the family,” Fadoul said. “We really, really see the story behind Ariel’s family — Ariel and the Rev. Shaw (and) the Moore family — and we see how a tragedy in a small town can wreak havoc on everyone. … And what I think is really cool about this show is that it’s also all about how kids can (make) change.” 

Fadoul, who also is a drama teacher at the school, said they chose “Footloose: The Musical” as this year’s fall production after seeing how much students excelled in a pop/rock unit that was taught in an advanced musical theater class last school year. Fadoul added that the production not only further exposes her students to the pop/rock genre of musical theater, but it’s also relevant to the type of productions that are hitting stages in New York City today.

“In New York right now, what’s on stage (is) pop/rock, pop/rock — everything you audition for in New York, you need pop/rock music,” Fadoul said, later adding that this is the school’s first pop/rock production. “I gave the (pop/rock) unit, and each week the kids had to bring in a new pop/rock song … and they blew me away. They were so good, so I picked it 100% for them. We’re really trying to give them a variety of different styles (of musical theater).” 

Miguel Gil stars as Ren McCormack in Windermere High’s upcoming production, “Footloose: The Musical.”

This school year’s fall musical production features a cast of 46 actors, as well as 30 crew members. One of those actors is junior Miguel Gil, who will be starring as Ren McCormack. It’s his first leading role at the school. 

“I picked to play him because (the role) matches my voice really well,” Gil said. “It’s just such a fun character to play. The dance aspect is kind of a newer aspect for me, (but) it’s just been so fun.” 

Gil added that although he’s excited for the opportunity to play the lead, the dancing came with its difficulties. He might be a little new to the dancing aspect of the show, but Gil considers himself “a good mover.” 

“Being sore all the time from dancing so much and just constantly having to practice and learn (has been tough),” Gil said. “(I’ve been) practicing at home a lot — taking it step-by-step, breaking it down, taking videos of myself, watching those videos and trying to improve every time. I watched the movie, obviously, a couple of times. … (I) analyzed the character as much as I could.”

In addition to the large cast and crew, the show also features about 250 different costumes, from neon-colored workout attire and sequin gowns to prom dresses and cowboy hats. Fadoul gathered the costumes from thrift shops and parents in the months leading up to the production. 

“(The) majority of my costuming has come from the Goodwill (from) here or in Polk County,” Fadoul said. “I have so many (donations) of the kids’ moms. So many of the kids are wearing their mom’s prom dresses. A ton of them are in their mom’s prom dresses for the end of the show, and I’m doing a slideshow out front with the moms in their prom dresses. I’m trying to include as much of the community as possible.”