Wildcat Theatre finished this year’s run of “Back to the 80s … the Totally Awesome Musical” on Saturday, and it’s safe to say that the multi-talented kids in the cast and crew made it a success.
The plot of the musical reads like a John Hughes film. The play revolves around Corey Palmer Jr. (Aaron Lee), a high school senior. He’s in love with his neighbour, Tiffany (Amy Stratulate), who is in love with Michael Feldman (Maverick Wilford), the most popular guy in school.
The action is occasionally interrupted by the adult Corey — played by Stettler Middle School vice-principal Jeff Lee (Aaron’s father), who gave a heartfelt rendition of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
The friendly Tiffany is best friends with the brusque Cyndi (Dacia Gramlick), who scorns her multitude of admirers. She got her time to shine with a rendition of “Material Girl,” with backup from a brigade of shirtless cast members who seemed like they were having fun.
Corey loses the school election to Michael, who wins by stealing Corey’s idea to have a fundraising concert and by promising a kiss to every girl who votes for him. Adding insult to injury, Corey then loses Tiffany to Michael in a kilted sing-off to “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).”
At his lowest point, Corey’s melancholy is played out in a dream sequence involving Star Wars-costumed dancers that must be seen to be believed. Whoever played Yoda deserved his/her own curtain call.
Meanwhile, new student Eileen (Maggie Mackenzie) has a secret admirer and thinks that it’s Michael, and class nerd Feargal McFerrin (Kelsey Gamache) — who, between his kicky suspenders and his Mr. Miyagi impression, got the most laughs of the night — is constantly correctly predicting technological advances (“This … is a CD!”) while people scoff. And the romance of teachers Mr. Cocker (Kasen Fraser) and Ms. Brannigan (Hannah McKay) hits a snag when Mr. Cocker finds out that Ms. Brannigan appeared on a centrefold at age 18, but they later reconcile.
But back to the main plot. The love notes to Eileen were a prank, and Eileen runs away crying. She is later comforted by Corey and his friends Kirk and Alf, with an extremely accurate cover of Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Tiffany witnesses both of those events and — spoiler! — realizes that Michael is a jerk and that Corey is the one for her. They end up going to the prom together, obviously.
The play’s charm lies in its plethora of 1980s’ jokes. “Bueller … Bueller …” “Wax on … wax off,” and the fact that fake love notes are comprised entirely of 80s’ lyrics.
Speaking as a non-dancer, the choreography was complex and well-danced. I especially enjoyed the dance to “Man in the Mirror,” as well as the tap dance by David O’Donnell near the beginning. Aaryn Lynham did an energetic rendition of “Kids in America” and has the most adult voice I’ve ever heard on a teenage girl. I also liked the duet between Mackenzie and Stratulate of “Lost In Your Eyes.”
The students obviously worked hard and the standing ovation was well-deserved.