Skip to Content


Back to Listings

CityNews 570's Mike Farwell interviews David Connolly, director and choreographer of Footloose

February 15, 2024

David Connolly sat down with Mike Farwell from CityNews 570 recently to discuss the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy's production of Footloose.

Mike Farwell with David Connolly

"I very luckily, and happily, and gratefully, took on the idea that we could build a home for youth to find belonging, self-acceptance, and real self-esteem, to travel with them into life. Whether they go on to become artists or not, arts education just happens to provide these incredible skill sets and life skills that will hopefully set them up for success."
David Connolly, Director of Education at the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy, as well as the director and choreographer of Footloose at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, speaking on Mike Farwell's CityNews 570 show on February 8.

Listen to the full interview here:  


Mike Farwell: Well, his head started bopping right away, so I know I done good. I know I done good. David Connolly, the artistic director with the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy sits across from me in studio. And you dare, good sir, to bring this song's movie - I think I got that right - to the stage?

David Connolly: Been working so hard.

Mike Farwell: Hello, my friend, how are you?

David Connolly: I'm so good. So excited. Thank you for having me.

Mike Farwell: It's an absolute pleasure to have you here to talk about... let's start with the Drayton Entertainment Youth Academy in and of itself. I love what you're doing there. For those who may not be aware, can you tell us more about it? 

David Connolly: Sure. So, Drayton Entertainment was built on community. 33 years later, here we are, seven theatres under the incredible guidance and leadership of Alex Mustakas, our founding CEO and artistic director. He wanted to expand this idea of community, not by getting another theatre, but by giving back to the community and recognizing that generational change become the focus of what expansion meant for him. And so I very luckily, and happily, and gratefully, took on the idea that we could build a home for youth to find belonging, self acceptance, and real self esteem, to travel with them into life, whether they go on to become artists or not.

But arts education just happens to provide these incredible skill sets, and life skills that will hopefully set them up for success. Those include things like self acceptance, self-esteem, accountability. They're working so hard for this common goal, rising, and this project we're talking about today, the high school musical project, brings together 51 high school students from 20 different high schools to be accountable to 1000s of ticket buyers who are going to hopefully come see Footloose at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse in the next couple of weeks.

So, the Academy is a brick and mortar in Waterloo. It's got eight studios, you were there. We were thrilled to have you. And that's what we do, expose youth and adults now to what it means to be brave. You know, singing, dancing, acting, we have technical theatre classes, we have choir, we have an intergenerational choir now that we do, which is really fun, we have on camera classes, and we're just about to boot up our wellness arm.

So, it's a hub. It's so exciting, and it's just the beginning. 

Mike Farwell: So exciting was this whole venture for you that when Alex reaches out, he lured you back from the bright lights and big city of New York.

David Connolly: That is true. Yeah, it is true.

Mike Farwell: The kids are so lucky to have you here. But it must speak to how much you believe in just what you were talking about.

David Connolly: Well, I'm a Waterloo Boy - MacGregor and Forest Heights. To be able to provide this sense of community for these kids, especially in this Footloose project, because they're all from, as I said, 20 different high schools. So all of a sudden, all these big fish from little ponds are in a much bigger pond, and they get to rise to the occasion of being treated like professionals, which is how we treat this. It is a fully realized Drayton Entertainment-quality production - sets and lights and costumes and all of it.

We have 35 kids on stage and 15 kids backstage, doing sound lights, carpentry, running through stage management, and we have a student in the pit as well, mentoring with our professionals. So all our department heads are mentoring these kids to rise. And they are, and your listeners get to come support them in this educational piece because they need proof that their hard work paid off. So yeah, they'll be entertained. And it's Footloose, which, Mike, is 40 years old.

Mike Farwell: No, it's not! Don't, don't say that to me. Why do you have to come in here and be that way?

David Connolly: Kids are calling it a period piece.

Mike Farwell: No, they're not!

David Connolly: Yeah, they are and, like, fair, right? Because when I was a teenager when it came out, and so - I just thought of this yesterday - 42 years prior to that would have been 1945. Like, wartime. So, that's how far away this is for these kids. We have a rotary phone on the set as a prop. None of them know how to use it. They were trying to. They thought they had an idea, but it was so funny. Anyway, here we are, 40 years later.

Mike Farwell: I would like to have a word with your students and your actors and dancers because my first onstage opportunity was My Fair Lady. Now that was a period piece.

David Connolly: Are you gonna give us a few bars?

Mike Farwell: I could not. Actually, I was only in the chorus. I mean, I guess I could. But I was in the chorus for a reason apart, right? Did I ever brag to you, David, that I got to do a solo in Jesus Christ Superstar.

David Connolly: You did? I haven't heard it yet. I come here in the hopes that you will.

Mike Farwell: Never.

David Connolly: Never say never.

Mike Farwell: Well, you're right. Maybe, perhaps, under your expert guidance I could work up to that again. But I'm going to leave that over here, because this is about Footloose, the high school project. I asked you during the break, and you, without hesitation, said no, this isn't intimidating at all. I would have thought it might have been given that Footloose is such a classic. 

David Connolly: But because it is such a classic, and because it's in the DNA of so many people, then you just get to relax. "Let's Hear It For the Boy", "Almost Paradise", the title song. You're just on this ride of watching these kids, many of whom had never heard this score soundtrack before, so they're inventing it, and they get to pass it on to a new generation.

The story is about youth coming to the aid of a community in need, right? That's the story of Footloose, and that the only way to the happy ending is open minds and open hearts. You've got this incredible music, and the show's about dancing, and so we've really pushed them this year into really difficult choreography that they've all kind of risen to. Then you have this theme of listening, and open mindedness, and the benefit of that.

And so all told, if you come, and we hope you will, then you're guaranteed to leave inspired and having done service to these kids, because they do need evidence that their hard work... Because they're balancing so much right their life, they've got exams at school, and part time jobs, and things to manage. So, the fact that they're being so accountable, and using their time management so well for this common cause, the end result should be sold out. Audiences cheering and screaming that they did great so that the next time they encounter something that they feel maybe scared about, they'll have this lived experience of, oh, no, I know what bravery feels like, I know what courage means. And they'll step up to that, whether it is onstage or not, right there.

These are our future leaders. They're our future teachers, our future parents, or future arts supporters, so we're just really excited to be at this stage of their development. 

Mike Farwell: St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. It opens next Wednesday, the 14th, runs through the 25th. You can visit to get your tickets, and please do. I want to see sold out shows for this, too. Because as David so eloquently states, the kids absolutely deserve it.

Before I let you go, it must be so gratifying for you to watch these young performers, develop, grow, collaborate to the moment that curtain goes up next Wednesday. 

David Connolly: Well, any expert or book or teacher, a good teacher, is going to tell you that things go wrong when kids feel they don't belong. That's what this gives them. We see the new network that they've created. Some of them are going to be friends for life because of this, and they have a better shot at succeeding. So that's the satisfaction, is just knowing that there's a new community as a result of this effort, and the audience members get to be a part of it.

Mike Farwell: Absolutely love what you're doing. Please come by anytime, okay?

David Connolly: Please give us just one line of Jesus Christ Superstar. Just a few notes?

Mike Farwell: "Look at..." No, I can't.

David Connolly: That was good!

Mike Farwell: Thank you for that. It's not supposed to translate well over A.M. radio. If they let me on Chime FM, maybe I'll do it.

David Connolly: Sounds good. I'm going to petition.

Mike Farwell: David, you're a gem. Thanks for being here. David Connolly with Drayton Entertainment's Youth Academy, joining us in studio. Go see Footloose, The High School Project, St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, and it opens next Wednesday. Tickets at This is "The Mike Farwell Show".