Big hair has never been in style for the girls gathered around Theatre Baton Rouge's Studio stage.

But big hair is back, along with tightly rolled jeans and Ariel's red cowboy boots.

The preacher's daughter's rebellious boots are at the center of the 1980s setting for "Footloose: The Musical," based on the 1984 movie that spiraled Kevin Bacon to heartthrob status.

Hayden Ponjuan will be stepping into Bacon's role of Ren McCormick when Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program opens the musical on Thursday, Sept. 14.

And Caroline Feduccia will be Ariel Moore in the red cowboy boots.

"We've learned a lot about the '80s in this musical," Feduccia says. "We're all still working on our looks, but we'll definitely have the big hair, and I'll have the red boots."

But those without tickets have only three chances left — Sept. 14, 20 and 22 — to see the show during its two-week run.

"We had to add these three shows, because all of the others sold out before the show even had a chance to make it to the stage," says Caty Stewart, the theater's communications director. "Last year, the Young Actors staged 'Bye Bye Birdie,' and it sold out, but not this early. We've never had one of their shows to sell out this early."

Education Director Jack Lampert, who is co-directing this show with Hayley Schroeck, sees this as a good sign for possible expansion.

"It's been my dream for the Young Actors Program to perform a musical on the theater's Main Stage one day," he says. "This may help us get there."

For now, the young company is staying in the Studio Theatre next door, where the town of Beaumont will learn to dance again to a live rock-style band.

Performing in the instrumental ensemble will be 17-year-old Manny Bailey, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. Bailey has played in the orchestra for all of the company's musicals. "Footloose" will mark his finale with the Young Actors Program.

"I was involved in their other productions, but I joined the orchestra for the musicals, because I couldn't sing," he says. "It was a way for me to be a part of it."

The music for "Footloose" is different from the troupe's other shows.

"It's an '80s rock show," he says. "The band we have really rocks."

And it rocks to many of the songs originally made popular by the film, including "Let's Hear it for the Boy," "I Want a Hero" and, of course, the title song, where everyone will cut loose and kick off their Sunday shoes.

That last line really sums up the story about a town where dancing is outlawed and repressed kids are aching to shed their Sunday shoes for the dance floor.

"Footloose: The Musical" premiered on Broadway on Oct. 22, 1998, with original music by Tom Snow and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, who also co-wrote the stage story with Walter Bobbie.

The story follows that of the Herbert Ross-directed film, whose script also was written by Pitchford: a teen from the big city of Chicago moves to small town Beaumont, where dancing and rock music have been banned.

He meets Ariel Moore, whose minister father rules the town with a heavy hand. Together, Ren and Ariel set out to convince the town council to rescind the ban.

"The musical is different from the movie in that it goes into more detail about the characters' back stories," says Tyler Robbins, 17, who plays the Rev. Shaw Moore. "It digs deeper into Shaw's life and why he's against dancing."

And though the reverend is a dominant personality, Robbins, a junior at The Runnels School, doesn't see him as a bad guy.

"He's really not," Robbins says. "He's lost a son, and he's taking on the weight of the world. He eventually learns that he can't control everything and he has to let go."

Shaw's wife, Vi, is played by Hannah Tanib, a 16-year-old junior at Denham Springs High School.

"She wants a happy family, and she wants her family to be one again," Tanib says. "But she sees her husband going one way and her daughter going the other. It's difficult for her."

Ponjuan, a 17-year-old senior at Lee Magnet High School, played the lead in last year's "Bye Bye Birdie."  But playing Ren is different for him.

"I can relate to Ren, because he has a way of expressing himself through dance," Ponjuan says. "I express myself through theater, and if someone took theater away from me like they did to Ren with dancing, it would be tough."

Feduccia, a 15-year-old sophomore at St. Joseph's Academy, admits it has taken her some time to understand her character, Ariel.

"I really don't think I like her," she says. "I'm not like her at all. She's rebellious, but I've come to understand that her rebellion comes from a deeper place. Underneath, she's really fragile, and her rebellion hides that. I can relate to her in that way."

Ariel eventually lets her guard down. Everyone else does, too, "losing their blues and cutting footloose."  


'Footloose: The Musical'

Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program's fall musical

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 20 and 22. All other performances are sold out. 

WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge's Studio Theatre, 7155 Florida Blvd., Baton Rouge

TICKETS/INFO: $20. Call (225) 924-6496 or visit theatrebr.org.

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.