News Column

W.F. West Theatre Students Go 'Back to the 80s'

May 8, 2014

By Christopher Brewer, The Chronicle, Centralia, Wash.

May 08--Never before has Brian Adams been so excited to direct a musical.

"Gonna bring back a lot of memories," Adams quipped Tuesday as he spoke of W.F. West High School's latest theater production.

Give the students on stage at R.E. Bennett School your full attention tonight, and you just might go "Back to the 80s" as the name of their production suggests.

You will likely be taken back to the decade in which Michael Jackson topped the Billboard music charts, Bill Cosby entertained television viewers as Cliff Huxtable, and the Cold War reached its apex.

Up from the ranks of freshmen to seniors come 24 students who have not only had to learn 18 songs to sing and dance to, but also have had to receive a crash course in a decade they were never a part of.

Consider Adams, who shares the phonetic version of his name with a famous singer from that decade, just the man to help with that.

"I was a teen in the '80s, and I still just love the music," Adams said. "I thought with this production, why not try something different?"

Billed as 75 percent singing and dancing, and the other 25 percent being actual rehearsed lines, "Back to the 80s" tells the story of the senior class at William Ocean High School in the late 1980s. The musical hearkens back to a time when teen coming-of-age films such as "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" were just released, and new wave music filled the top 40 hits on the airwaves.

Adams is a needed and willing resource for 24 student actors and dancers whose only exposure to the 1980s has probably come from the aforementioned films and music they'll perform, such as "Centerfold" by the J. Geils Band, "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper and "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles.

Adams says he used The Buggles as a springboard for some musical trivia for the actors and dancers in the production.

"I told the students that was the first-ever video aired on MTV," Adams said. "Yes, they used to play music videos on MTV."

Playing the music itself will be up to the W.F. West High School Band, which is bringing nine performers with horns, keyboards and a drum section to set the musical tone for the production. A crew of 10 people will be responsible for set changes and costume help throughout the production.

W.F. West senior Jonathan Burton, who plays the production's lead character of Corey Palmer, says the musical has been fun to learn. He believes audiences will enjoy the popular culture references along with the stories of teenage love, the senior year of high school and coming of age.

"It's just a neat high-energy '80's play with about three storylines going on," Burton said.

From Burton on down to dancers such as sophomore Brittany Wood, each person involved in the production has put in three hours per day for five days per week since February.

Wood says it's going to pay off, especially over the final rehearsal week students and staff alike know as "hell week."

"Even the smallest roles, we're still on stage a lot," Wood said. "It's been a really fun process."

As for Adams, he hopes audience members get lost temporarily in a decade that proved to be a bit over-the-top in popular culture as students bring them back three decades.

"The name recognition is going to be a bit of a gamble, but I think everyone's really going to enjoy it," Adams said.

Christopher Brewer, education and business reporter, can be reached at (360) 807-8235. Call him if you found a hidden 80's pop culture reference in this story.


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Source: Chronicle, The (Centralia, WA)

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