Dreamcast Challenge: Charlie's Mike Wartella Imagines His Ultimate Footloose Broadway Revival
August 23rd, 2017
by Josh Ferri
Michael Wartella currently stars on Broadway as insufferable social media addict and golden ticket winner Mike Teavee in the musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
On Friday, August 25, the Wicked and Tuck Everlasting alum makes his solo concert debut at Feinstein's/54 Below with a night of rock 'n' roll, Broadway covers, and original music.
BroadwayBox caught up with Mike to revive our dreamcast challenge. The premise is simple: you get two theatre nerds together for more than 15 minutes and someone is going to start dreamcasting a revival—so we're flipping the script and asking actors to dreamcast their own dream revivals.
What musical are we taking on, Mike?
I thought we’d talk about Footloose today. It occurred to me that Footloose was a huge part of my generation’s musical theatre history. (We all grew up playing Ren at some point in high school.) I think a revival for our generation would be fun.
OMG. Yes! What was your introduction to Footloose?
I played Ren in senior year of high school. That was my experience with it. I discovered it during senior year when we decided to do it for our school musical. I listened to the cast recording and immediately became obsessed with Jeremy Kushnier. It was probably one of the highlights of my young life, and the last bit of proof I needed for me to be like, ‘This is exactly what I want to do with my life.’
Now for some of those folks out there that don't yet know the glory of Footloose, what’s the one number they should look up to get a sense of it?
The opening number is the best way to start. It’s the iconic song from the movie and then it’s a 7-minute-long epic that goes into the church and into the town. It’s a great way to introduce the characters. It’s the one to hear.
Okay, let’s do this! You're Ren?
Well, Definitely. It’s a dreamcast, so while I probably can’t dance it the way they want, I could make it work. It will be fine!
Ariel Moore: Then this occurred to me: my girlfriend Tessa Grady (who has done a bunch of Broadway shows) would be perfect for Ariel. She’s that sweet little ingénue with a badass side to her.
Reverend Shaw Moore: Easy, no question about it—Michael Park would kill it. He’d be great!
Rusty: I had this idea to have Monette McKay from Charlie do it. She’s Trista Dolton’s understudy for Violet and she’s such an incredible talent. She’s a great singer, and she’s small and cute and young looking—and with me playing Ren (authentically looking like a high schooler) we’re going to need a young looking cast.
Willard: I really want Derek Klena to play Willard. He and I had great chemistry when we were Fiyero and Boq. He’s always playing suave leading men, but offstage he’s this total doofus comedian. So that would be a role that showed that side of him.
Vi Moore: I would love to see Kathy Voytko, who I did Tuck with—she was Carolee’s understudy. She’s absolutely incredible. She’s really too young to be a mom that age but she has this motherly edge to her that would be perfect.
Ethel McCormack: No brainer—it has to be Jennifer Laura Thompson because she played Ariel originally and she’s the right age to come back and do that.
Urleen: A role I thought worth noting was I really want Urleen to be played by Elliott Mattox (he’s an understudy in Charlie) and play it in full drag. I don’t understand why he isn’t covering Veruca and going on in a blonde wig.
What’s the Tony Awards number?
Instead of the opening number, I’d want the Tony number to be the end of act one, “Heaven Help Me”. Such a good number!
Since choreography is so critical to Footloose, did you give any thought as to the choreographer of this revival?
Good point. I hadn’t actually thought of it. I’ll say Chris Bailey. I’ve worked with him before, and his stuff is not only technically astounding, but he comes at it from an actor’s point of view and really tells a story with the choreography. It’s not just tricks for the sake of tricks. I think he’d be perfect. It’s also worth noting the book is garbage and Tim Federle should rewrite the book.
Finally, describe the poster:
The poster would be very simple. I’m a huge fan of iconic, easy word posters, so I really just want it to be the word Footloose with like a black background and black and red cool writing. No pictures of Ren or any of that stuff.
Don't miss Michael Wartella sing the roof off of 54 on August 25 in his debut concert, and see him nightly at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.