Cappies: Hazelwood East goes 'Back to the 80's'
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 14, 2013 - Shoulder pads, Madonna … and that unsolvable Rubix cube. Some of us lived it, others simply look back and wonder how Members Only jackets could have ever been cool. On February 8, 2013 Hazelwood East High School gave the unique experience of traveling back to the time of leg warmers and Hair-Bands in “Back to the 80’s … The Totally Awesome Musical.”
Written by Australian playwright Neil Gooding, “Back to the 80’s” premiered in Sydney, Australia, in 2004. It is a musical about an all-around likable guy named Corey Palmer. The show uses a series of flashbacks, narrated by a 30-something Corey looking back on his senior year at William Ocean High. From a love triangle to a Star Wars dream sequence, the show allows for an experience as one of a kind as the decade itself.
While they were not the only love story on the stage that night, Calvin Payne and Emmani Cunningham had believable chemistry as Corey Palmer Jr. and his girl-next-door love interest, Tiffany Houston, that grounded the show. Their journey from friends to first love and strong vocals in songs like “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life,” allowed for a classic love story to unfold.
The supporting cast brought energy that kept the show real. Michael Feldman (Nathan Battle), the popular jock, brought a natural coolness to his character plus strong vocal ability in “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and his election rap. Another stand out was Urkel-inspired Feargal McFerrin (Malik Mu’Min) who was absolutely hilarious and constantly in character. His energy brought great life and frivolity into the show especially in “Video Killed the Radio Star,” where keeping in character allowed for a great interpretation of the song. Another stand out was Ms. Sheena Brannigan (Victoria Cherry), Corey Palmer’s teacher with a love story of her own. With a fantastic voice that shone brightly in “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” she was a force to be reckoned with on stage.
The ’80s are known for many fads and trends, shown with props such as yo-yos and rubix cubes. In a hilarious dream sequence, Payne, Cunningham, Battle and Kelechukwu Adiele (Corey’s lovable best-friend Alf Bueller) had wonderful Yoda, Darth Vader and Princess Leia costumes. There were sparks of classic 80s style, but they were not as prevalent or as extreme as the original decade.
Overall, Hazelwood East put on a solid show with “Back to the 80’s.” While there were some sound issues throughout the show, some of the actors adapted by projecting more and adjusting their microphones. The energy was consistent throughout.
With references galore and hilarious nods to the future, Hazelwood East High School took the story and made it their own.
Cleopatra Benos is a student at Clayton High School. The Cappies program works with students who review high school theatrical productions.