‘Back to the 80’s’ brings ‘80s hits to life

TUPPER LAKE – It’s OK to sing and dance a little in your seats, or even in the aisles.

Music Director Elizabeth Cordes said she’s hoping some of that will happen when Tupper Lake Middle/High School actors perform “Back to the 80’s …The Totally Awesome Musical!” this weekend.

“I’m expecting some sing-along from the audience,” Cordes said during a break from a recent rehearsal.

The musical, written by Neil Gooding, follows an ’80’s-teen-movie-type storyline. Corey Palmer falls in love with his popular-girl neighbor, Tiffany Houston, who is crushing on studly football player Michael Feldman.

Their story, and the various plotlines of their friends, is told through almost 30 hits from the 1980s, including “Love Shack,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Material Girl,” “Man in the Mirror” and, of course, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” And, of course, all the plotlines climax and loose ends are tied up at the prom.

Cordes said this musical was a good one to get actors on board who in the past had been on the fence about performing in a musical because of all the familiar tunes.

“It’s everything they know,” she said. “We’ve had so much fun.”

The whole thing is set against the backdrop of a huge Rubix Cube, and there are a number of clever references woven into the story that will bring audience members right back to that time period – things like “Night Rider” and “A-Team” quotes, characters telling each other to “Pull my finger,” and even a “Star Wars”-themed dream sequence.

The funny thing about high schools performing a musical like is that most of the students were born in the mid 1990s. The cast and crew had a movie night during which they watched ’80s classics like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Karate Kid” to get themselves acclimated, and they have been listening to a ’80s compilation CD in gym class.

Junior Lance Vaillancourt plays Corey Palmer, who Vaillancourt said falls somewhere in between geek and cool kid. It was challenging to find the right balance, he said. The character still wears a Superman T-shirt and plays with action figures, but he is maturing into the world of having crushes on girls as he enters his senior year of high school.

Vaillancourt’s favorite song to perform is Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.”

He said he’s had a great time with this production, and he’s not sure what he’s going to do once the show wraps up.

“I love it,” Vaillancourt said. “It’s my life.”

Senior Abby St. Onge plays Corey’s love interest, the bubbly cheerleader Tiffany. St. Onge said it’s been a fun character to play, because she’s so optimistic and full of life.

“I love her,” St. Onge said. “I love playing her.”

Her favorite songs are “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Centerfold,” a real tear-jerker of a number with endearing characters, St. Onge said.

The singing and dancing students will be accompanied in this weekend’s productions by a pit orchestra consisting of guitar, bass, a full horn section, two keyboards and a drummer, all dressed as an ’80s rock band.

Since many ’80s styles are back in fashion now, the show’s cast and crew were able to assemble many of the costumes by going closet diving, Cordes said.

Cordes’ husband, George Cordes, is the production’s stage director, Emily Madan choreographed the show, and David Naone designed the lights.

The show runs at the school’s auditorium at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and closes with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $8 for adults.