He may have Kevin Bacon's hair, but he's NOT Kevin Bacon.
Footloose star Jeremy Kushnier may have taken Ren McCormick, the role Bacon played in the 1984 film version, but from the sideburns on, Ren is his own creation.
Kushnier's McCormick is an out-of-place 90's kid who moves from Chicago to bucolic Bomont [sic] when his father and mother divorce. Instead of being depressed, Ren approaches Bomont with pluck, only to discover that pleasures such as dancing are banned in his new hometown.
Kushnier (despite the "i," pronounced like the Angels In America playwright) describes Ren as a guy who has "basically grown up with a lot of crap thrown at him; he's never going to let that get him down...He's kind of a hopeless optimist. He has a strange sense of humor, and it tends to come out when he's nervous." Ren's sense of humor leads him in and out of conflicts with the town's adults, including his gym teacher (John Hillner), the school principal (John Deyle) and the town's minister, Reverend Shaw Moore (Stephen Lee Anderson). It also leads him into love with the Rev's daughter, Ariel (Jennifer Laura Thompson).
Kushnier enjoys the rapport with co-star Thompson, whose "very understanding" boyfriend doesn't mind their four nightly kisses, he says.
And Thompson relishes her role right back. Among other reasons, she likes the envy of the audience. "All the teenage girls are going to want to be me," she told Kushnier, who laughs at the thought.
Broadway may be new to him (Footloose is his debut), but acting is not. The 22 year old has been performing for the last 10 years, mostly in Canada. He played the second pinball lad in both the Toronto and Canadian tour of The Who's Tommy and served as a swing in the original Canadian company of Rent.
Swinging in Rent kept him surprisingly busy. Kushnier went on "at least once a week" and performed both Mark and Roger several times.
Even though he studied ballet and jazz at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (a misleading fact, he insists), Kushnier does not consider himself a dancer - just someone who is willing to move.
"I'm not afraid to jump in there with them," he says. The choreography "is extremely physical. A.C., our choreographer, wanted to give it a street edge, like a bunch of kids who like to dance, dancing." Acting may be routine for him, but many of Kushnier's youthful co-stars are making acting as well as Broadway debuts. The effect on the company is palpable. "The first preview was pure adrenaline," Kushnier notes.
Now comfortably snuggled into the Richard Rodgers, a venue he calls "a beautiful little theatre" after the Kennedy Center ("the barn"), Kushnier concentrates on opening the show.
And worrying -- a little -- on opening night. While he doesn't have an opening night ritual, he does get opening night jitters: "I just try to keep myself from going crazy...That's when my nerves kick in," he says.
Most of all, Kushnier wants to enjoy Footloose. He says, "That's why I'm in this business--to have fun."