New Albany High School is stepping into new territory with "Footloose."

Theater director Elliott Lemberg said students will take the musical into a new decade and a culturally diverse background when the show opens Thursday, Nov. 15.

"Footloose," usually set in the 1980s, will be brought into the early 1990s to juxtapose urban hip-hop culture with a rural mindset as the main character, Ren McCormack, moves from Chicago to a small town.

"I thought it would be an interesting way to tell the story," Lemberg said.

Because the musical's songs already have a pop-rock feel, bringing a hip-hop influence to them wasn't difficult, he said.

Many of the students hadn't learned hip-hop before and were trying that specific style of dance for the first time, Lemberg said.

And though the decision to cast Ren as a young African-American man was based on talent, he said, it does add another layer to the musical.

Brandon Jefferson, the 15-year-old sophomore who plays Ren, said he views his role as less about racial diversity and more about symbolizing the idea of change.

Learning his character's hip-hop choreography was easy because he is a fast learner, Jefferson said. Retaining the numbers proves more difficult, he said, and requires him to practice constantly.

Senior Kate Burch, 17, plays Ren's love interest, Ariel Moore.

Unlike Jefferson, her role didn't come with hip-hop routines, although the ensemble dances include fairly simple hip-hop moves, she said.

The addition of the 90s urban Chicago hip-hop component helps connect with a younger audience, Burch said.

"Footloose" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 and 16 and at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, 100 W. Dublin-Granville Road, New Albany.

Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com or can be purchased the night of the event. Prices range from $9 to $15, plus service fees.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah