Theatre Information

Hazelwood East High School Back To The 80s: The Totally Awesome Musical

By • Feb 12th, 2013 • Category: Cappies, Missouri

What could be more awesome than a musical production filled with classic hits and hairstyles from the 80s? Hazelwood East High School brought its audience a nice blast from the past on Friday, February 8 with their production of Back To The 80s: The Totally Awesome Musical.

The show was written by Neil Gooding and debuted in 2004. Since Gooding is from Australia, it took the musical a while to become popular in other parts of the world — it has just recently been released in the United States and Canada. The story centers on the senior class of William Ocean High, specifically Corey Palmer, who, when the play begins, is competing against the coolest guy in the grade for two crucial crowns. Both he and Michael Feldman yearn for the title of senior class president and the hand of the most beautiful girl in school, Tiffany. Through flashback narration by Corey’s older self, we watch as his last year of high school unfolds through energetic song and dance numbers.

As for the lively nature of the musical, there are a few cast members who truly embody the 1980s spirit. Corey Palmer (Calvin Payne) and his friends Alf Bueller (Kelechukwu Adiele) and Kirk Keaton (Dwayne McCowan) interact fabulously with each other, and do a captivating job of personifying the time period. Michael Feldman (Nathan Battle) and his clique also keep the energy up and act quite naturally. Payne and Battle compete for Tiffany’s affection in “500 Miles” and both of their performances are strong. Outstanding geek power is found in Feargal McFerrin (Malik Mu’Min), who never lets the laughs go astray for too long. He never falters his nerdy accent, even singing in it — his performance of “Video Killed the Radio Star” is quite notable.

Among other enjoyable performers, Ms. Sheena Brannigan, played by Victoria Cherry, has uniquely strong vocal talent and beautifully conveys her teaching role as the Senior Students Coordinator at William Ocean High. Billy Arnold (Dwayne Halbert) also has an impressive voice and executes almost perfectly an impersonation of Rick Astley during “Never Gonna Give You Up,” trench coat and all.

Though missing both their guitar players, the orchestra executes the popular 80s hits to the best of their ability and never overpowers the vocalists. Lighting is adequate for the majority of the show. The makeup and clothing of the cast is clearly 80s, but could be slightly more flamboyant for attention’s sake. The set design, though simple, allows for performers to move and dance on elevated platforms, creating more visual symmetry.

Unfortunately, there were multiple difficulties with the sound; microphones cut out and/or were not balanced in regards of lead and backup singers. The sound crew sometimes adjusted accordingly to these malfunctions in order to provide a clearer listening experience. Dancing was not always lively, but was enrapturing when choreographed, as in “Footloose.”

Filled with freshman and first-timers, the cast and crew of Back To The 80s: The Totally Awesome Musical put on a bright, fun production. The energy and ensemble-feel they created with their acting generated an authentic 80s feel, and showed the audience that it truly was totally awesome.

by Anna Wermuth of Maplewood Richmond-Heights HS

This article can be linked to as: