Came home from Lanzarote to indifferent weather and was not in a particularly happy mood as I settled in a sauna-like atmosphere for the David Hennessy Stage School production of a new jukebox musical – Back To The 80s. But, within minutes, I was awake and buzzing like a teen at a Wham concert. This show originated in schools in Australia in the early 2000s and it was 2004 before it became the subtitled – Totally Awesome Musical. David Hennessy worked wonders, with a young cast who weren’t alive when some of the songs were hits, and yet they rose like troupers to the crazy world of Rubik’s Cube, Atari Pacman, Commodore 64, The A-Team, Teenage Mutant Ninjas, Max Headroom, Rick Astley, The Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi.
The storyline is a typical jukebox musical about William Ocean High School with an adult narrator, Cool Kids, Loveable Geeks and two adult teachers with history. It uses eighties hits to cover a senior class year from elections, concerts, proms, love, rejection and great fun and excitement.
Adrian Dower, as narrator, brought a wonderful sense of new nostalgia to the work and he popped up at times to sing a Bon Jovi song or tie-up the loose ends in a moving finale. Ray Collins as Mr. Cocker, was masterful and his wife Annmarie Dixon, as another teacher, was a wow in Total Eclipse Of The Heart.
A members of different gangs or crews, we got fine performances from John Power, Jack Casey, Paul White, Alex White, Cathy McEvoy, Aileen Cotter, Clara Donnegan and Vicky Sheridan. Kaylem Kennedy was an excellent cameo of Michael Jackson and it was sad to think of that star gone from the world. Kennedy had all the moves and mannerisms and it was a fine tribute.
Evan Croke was a star as Corey Palmer and he caught the open innocence of the role so well. Lauren Cardiff impressed as Eileen, especially in Walking On Sunshine, a big hit for Katrina And The Waves.
Glenn Murphy is an exceptional performer and his Michael Feldman was cool and classy. Adam Phelan was wonderful as the geeky Fergal McFerrin and his karate chops were a fun routine.
Katie Duggan was splendid as Cyndi Gibson and she lit up the action with great presence and poise. But Rachel Coady as Tiffany stole the show with a difficult role but she made it her own and brought all those emotions onstage in a touching and tender performance.
Wayne Browne was M.C. Paul Brown worked magic on lights and Avril Musgrave excellend with fine costumes, as did Nikki Meade on hair.
I had a blast, as did the large cast and once again Waterford’s youngest stars shone with summer magic.