Drammy Winner JOHN HUGHES HIGH Set For School Debut
Fresh on the heels of Staged!'s Drammy winning world premiere last spring, John Hughes High: The 1980's Teen Musical is back to max this fall for its first school staging.
The show's new home, daVinci Arts Middle school, provides a perfect showcase for Mark LaPierre (4x4=Musicals) and Eric Nordin's ("The Snowstorm") inventive, inclusive, gender-blind take on the 80's teen trope perfected by Hughes and his Brat Pack casts. daVinci's huge ensemble, a cast and crew of 90 plus middle schoolers, is deep in talent and anchored by powerful vocals, dance and acting.
The story: It's yearbook awards time at John Hughes High, where everyone is fabulous and jockeying for a top spot in the 1989 "Best of" competition. Everyone except the new girl, Samantha, who is miserable, invisible and looking to bail on John Hughes High for a year abroad at the French School of Ennui. The catch: Samantha's depressingly impressive mom will only let her go if she wins the award for Most Friendly. Mom's challenge sets the plot in motion, spurring Samantha's quest to befriend every clique in school.
When da Vinci Director Nicole Accuardi and choreographer Sara Martins caught a performance during the show's May run at Artist Repertory Theatre, it was love at first sight.
"By the end of the show we were both crying happy tears," said Accuardi, who found deep parallels in John Hughes High's strong, passionate, driven characters and her own students. "The fact that we get to follow a character who feels they don't belong, and that they are invisible is a something we've all related to at one time or another."
The show, with it's 80s inspired score - think Thompson Twins, GoGos, Queen - earned LaPierre and Nordin a 2018 Drammy for Best Original Musical and rave reviews from audiences and critics.
"We were extremely lucky that Mark LaPierre and Eric Nordin agreed to give us the rights for the school premiere," Accuardi said.
For an extra fun twist, Accuardi brought in special guest Emily Sahler (most recently seen as Adelaide in Broadway Rose's Guys and Dolls) to play Samantha's mom opposite her real life daughter, 8th grader Cassidy Beleele, the show's powerhouse young lead.
Fun Fact: Accuardi is a second-generation Portland Public Schools drama teacher. Her mother, Julie Accuardi, who repeatedly and persistently urged Nicole to see John Hughes High at Artist Rep last spring, headed Wilson High School's theater program for 33 years.
daVinci Arts Middle School, 2508 NE Everett St. When: 7 pm Nov. 8, 9, 15, 16; 2 pm Nov. 10, 17 Tickets: $10 (or pay what you can) -- ticket revenue supports daVinci drama program