Heroes hit the stage

Heroes hit the stage

After a three-week crash course, 175 students learn how to get Footloose on stage

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(From left) lyman heung, Alice Fletcher, Ryutaro Yanagita and Viveca Chow.
(From left) lyman heung, Alice Fletcher, Ryutaro Yanagita and Viveca Chow.
Photo: Jonathan Wong
Each year, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts' Extension and Continuing Education for Life class puts on a revamp of the 1998 musical Footloose.

The Summer Music School production comprises youngsters who will handle everything from lighting to make-up, and gives them an opportunity to experience putting together a production in just three weeks.

The 175 students - from ages nine to 21 - will help tell the tale of Ren McCormack, a dance enthusiast and newcomer to the small suburban town of Beaumont.

McCormack struggles to fit into the town where dance is banned by the local Reverend, Shaw Moore. But trouble starts when the Reverend's rebellious daughter Ariel sets her sights on McCormack.

With two shows a day, the lead roles are split between two sets of actors because the back-to-back performances would be too much to handle.

In his first lead role, Lyman Heung, 20, plays McCormack. He says the high-energy number Let's Hear It For The Boy is his favourite part of the show. Ryutaro Yanagita, 16, also plays McCormack. He has no favourite moments - 'the whole thing is good'.

Alice Fletcher, 16, pairs with Lyman and Viveca Chow, 15, is matched with Ryutaro. The Ariels say the Bonnie Tyler classic Holding Out For A Hero is their favourite song.

But singing is not all they got out of the three-week course - they also picked up a little discipline from the acting lessons and dance training. 'It's a very professional environment,' says Lyman.

The four are no strangers to professional acting. Ryutaro was the lead in the ABA production of Peter Pan for their Asian tour. Also, he and Lyman have done Footloose before with the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation. Lyman sums up the show as having 'more dancing, more lines, more energy. A wider range of audiences can enjoy watching us perform'.

Despite their experience, they still face challenges. 'We know how the rehearsal process goes,' Alice says. 'But with every show there are difficulties, like understanding your character, what she's all about, getting into her head.'

Ariel is challenging because of her wild nature. 'She's very different from us,' the girls say.

Lyman and Ryutaro say the romantic scenes are the most difficult 'because we're both really shy'.

Alice agrees: 'You're thrown together for three weeks and you have to be romantic. It's awkward at first.'

Lyman admits he still has stage fright, but 'the magic comes when you actually become the character' and the audience starts to believe. He recounts how a girl watching him rehearse began to cry. 'I thought - I've got to make more people cry.'

The actors have seen parts of the 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon as McCormack. Ryutaro is aware of the expectations created by the popularity of the film, but says he is not trying to 'copy' the movie. 'You've got to put some of yourself into it.'

When asked if they want to go into performing arts, all four give a resounding yes.

'Performing is so much fun. You can't describe it,' Viveca says.

'It's like making magic,' adds Lyman.

Alice says: 'Just do it - follow your dream. You never know until you try!'

Footloose is on twice daily from Aug 6-8 at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

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