By Christine Ehren
22 Oct 1998
|Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus|
Stephen Lee Anderson
Rev. Shaw Moore
Reverend Shaw Moore, antagonist of Footloose, bans dancing, struggles with raising his teenage daughter, grows distant from his wife, and alienates his community. "He thinks he's doing the right thing," Stephen Lee Anderson says of the adult lead character he plays. "[Moore] is trying to come to the grips with the loss of his son."
Anderson had not planned to come to Broadway in this role. He began Footloose 's run as the Moore understudy, covering for Martin Vidnovic, the original Reverend.
When Vidnovic abruptly left the show in DC, Anderson admits, "I was shaken, but at least I knew the lines and the songs...I was 'living room' perfect on the lines." He didn't expect anything permanent from the DC run, however. "My main job was to keep the machinery running."
Then, on the final Sunday in Washington, Anderson received a phone call from director Walter Bobbie between the first and second performances. They were offering him Moore for the Broadway opening.
Taking over has let him get to know the cast and his on stage "family" better.
"You feel kind of distant when you're a cover. You're not on the battlegrounds," he says, adding that both "wife" Dee Hoty and "daughter" Jennifer Laura Thompson have been very supportive of his addition.
As the Reverend, Anderson gets two of the big songs in Footloose that weren't on the film's soundtrack. The first, "Heaven Help Me," is the preacher's prayer for help in making the right decisions for the town and his family. The second, "I Confess," is the show's 11 o'clock number and turning point of the story. After an argument with new kid Ren McCormick (Jeremy Kushnier), Moore is forced to confront his repressed grief for his son.
Anderson likes debuting these songs for a new audience. "There's a real challenge there -- introducing new songs. When they hear 'Paradise,' they're used to hearing it sung a certain way." "I Confess" is the most special moment for Anderson. As the father of a three and half year old ("and another on the way"), losing a child is an emotional thought.
"I was really able to hook into that song. It's a horrible thing to have lost a child...I think it's such a beautiful song -- and that change... what he goes through. I just love it," he says.
For Anderson, the greatest pleasure of Footloose is its simplicity. After Floyd Collins, Violet, and The Capeman , he's glad to do such a show. "Everything I've done -- they've all been new and cutting edge. This is just a simple story -- a chance to have in-your-face dancing and wonderful songs."