This is a "feel-good" musical play for any audience. Whether you lived through the 80's as an adult, grew up in the decade or were born since, you will be chuckling in your seat (or possibly shaking your head) in the happy, nostalgic mood that the songs and fashions of the 80s seem to carry with them. In a spot of good timing for the musical, much of the fashions of the 80s have made a recently comeback for the younger generation, providing us with a current nostaligic connection to the era.
Back to the 80s is good value – a lengthy musical, covering an excellent selection of the 80's most popular music, and featuring characters that are vehicles for the laugh-out-loud mannerisms, behaviours and fashions special to the 80's. There is some wonderful talent in the cast of this musical; the sense of humour and the naturalness of the actors as they give themselves to their characters is exactly what is needed to bring them to life, locating their characters in the adolescence of the 80s. There are some incredible vocalists among the actors also, and many with a natural rhythm - lots of fun. Power ballads such as Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart is delivered excellently, making the hairs rise on your arms, just as it should. Footloose, thankfully included in the lineup, was also delivered in the joyous, boppy cliché fashion it requires.
The inter-textuality afoot throughout the musical worked to ground the characters in the time and place. This was done through the covers done of popular music of course, but also by references to various performing artists at the time and to the film trilogy Star Wars which of course had its original wave of patronage in the 80s.
The fashions of the 80s were the other method of situating the performance in context and for further developing the characters. Hair-sprayed teased hair, bustiers and short shorts for the girls. For the guys, there was the odd mullet, fitted pants and jackets with rolled up sleeves. There is some serious attitude in some of the cast, and with the mannerisms and fashions of the day, it is just fabulously human - daggy, looking back, and fun, and a true portrayal of the 80s teenager.
Or at least, a teenager in the United States in the 80s. The musical is set in the US, so we have cheerleaders, prom, and other high school carry-on that is familiar to those us of who have watched numerous American high school movies. There is a requirement for the viewer to suspend their disbelief at times, as there are intermittent American accents in the delivery of the script, meaning that the American setting went in and out as a result.
The only other small note I will make is that there were a few too many extras in the cast, resulting in an overcrowded stage when the full compliment of the cast performed dance routines.
You will leave the theatre in a warm glow after seeing Back to the Eighties, having laughed, tapped your foot to the beat and reminisced for the duration. The 80s is not the lamentable time for fashion it was last decade. A fun, easy musical to go see with your partner, friend or family.
Old Nick Company Inc presents
Back to the Eighties
The Totally Awesome Musical
Directed by Chris Hamley
Venue: The Theatre Royal, Hobart
Dates: Oct 19 - Nov 3, 2012
Tickets: $39 - $29
Bookings: Theatre Royal | Centertainment