“Footloose” is known for its fiery preacher, the Rev. Shaw Moore, played memorably by John Lithgow in the film – but Ramapo High School’s production of the stage musical “Footloose” this weekend is likely to have at least two preachers in the audience, too.
Senior Narissa Williams plays Ariel, Moore’s rebellious daughter and she’s the real-life daughter of Pastor Gordon Williams, at Bethel Gospel Assembly in Harlem.
“They said ‘No, we’re not typecasting,” but in a way they are,” she says with a smile.
Being a pastor’s daughter comes with expectations, Williams says.
“The pastor’s kids always have to be perfect, but my sisters and I have always found it easier just to make our own footsteps,” Williams says. “If people are watching you, hopefully you’re being a model and example for them.”
Her older sister, Nadia, studies sociology at Harvard; kid sister Nalicia is a sophomore on the crew of “Footloose”; younger brother, Joshua, goes to Pomona.
Williams says playing Ariel’s relationship with her father is easy; the tough part is playing a girl who’s going out with two guys at once and cheating on one guy.
“That’s not the kind of person I am, so it takes a little more effort, but it’s fun,” she says. “I get all these tips from (director Eileen) Miss Geiger: ‘You got to be more seductive,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, Miss!'”
Williams says she doesn’t need to coach junior Ryan McNeill – who plays the Rev. Moore -in how to behave like a pastor father.
“He goes out with a pastor’s daughter, so he has the whole thing down,” she says with a smile.
That’s where that other pastor comes in: the Rev. Everett Newton, McNeill’s pastor at Nyack’s First Immanuel Missionary Baptist Church. He’s the father of Christian Boone, who goes out with McNeill.
McNeill says he’s been studying Newton’s sermons more closely than usual these days.
“I look at him every Sunday now, to see ‘OK, he uses his arms here,’ so he’s going to see a lot of himself up there,” McNeill says with a smile.
Both Williams and McNeill see little resemblance between their churches and the Rev. Moore’s congregation in “Footloose.”
“This is a very conservative, quiet church, but our churches are charismatic and a little louder,” Williams says.
“It’s much different. You would usually clap during a song, but we’re supposed to be this boring town where we just stand there and rock back and forth,” he says.
While the Rev. Moore is rock-ribbed at first, his heart begins to soften as Ren McCormack – played by sophomore Michael Quach- forces him to confront what Moore has been hiding. McNeill says there’s plenty to work with.
“He’s a great and dynamic character to play,” he says, adding “Michael is a really great guy to act off of. He brings a lot of energy to it and puts a lot of himself into Ren, so it’s easier for me to jump into Shaw’s skin and play off of that.”
Quach says he wasn’t a dancer when he was cast as Ren, but has become one, thanks to choreographer Liane Garzia.
“Everywhere I’m going now I’m dancing and moving around and I’m really into it,” he says.
McNeill says he’s never heard a pastor say people shouldn’t dance.
“That’s a new one,” he says with a big laugh.
Williams says her father would never say “No Dancing,” as Moore does in “Footloose,” but “he sets limits and standards for us and leaves it up to our judgment, trusting us to make the right decision. He allows us to dance – within certain limitations.”
Williams thinks her dad will like what he sees on stage – “except for the kissing part.”
Where: Ramapo High School, 400 Viola Road, Spring Valley.
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $10; $8 for students.
With: Shaquille Alexis, Justin Budde, Nicole A. Davis, Jimmy Deats, Kaylee del Rosario, Tsebiyah Derry, Sargine Desir, Brian Evans, Chloe Ford, Joshua Freeman, Tiffany Freeman, Bethany Friday, Brittany Gamble, Andre Gurayah, Travis Hall, Kendra Isaacs, Anfrank Moses Jimenez, Aaron Knox, Michael LaSalle, Sara Leger, Ariel Lopez, Andrea Machlis, Jason Mangual, Katherine Martinez, Lindsay McCandless, Karine McDonald, Ryan McNeill, Sarita Nash, Joshua Pilgrim, Christopher Price, Michael Quach, Jonelle Rheubottom, Candela Rodriguez, Melissa Sital, Greg Vernet, Seana Vitoff, Keith Watford, Samantha Whitley, Mary Williams, Narissa Williams, Megan Zarcone, Alma Altriste, Carla Andrade, Cassia Brereton, Jasmine Cradle, Noe Hernandez, Devine Holness, Jacqui Lamer, Ashley Narain, Natacha Orelien, Stephanie Polanco, Nhung Quan, Katherine Thomas, Seethal Thomas, Nalicia Williams, Nana Adjei Brenyah, Christian Alvarado, Ryan Chamberlin, Nicole Cuevas, Josh Daniels, Marilyn Dizon, Michael Dorcelly, Vincent Foskew, Bryan Framhein, Grace Hidalgo, Nitin John, Joseph Kim, Herbert Koosman, Robert Lerch, Sarah Lerch, Jimple Matthew, Kessly Midy, Carlos Noel, Clifford Perkins, Cory Rainford, Jonathan Toscano, Evonne Zitouni, Molly Zitouni.