BWW Review: JOHN HUGHES HIGH: THE 1980's TEEN MUSICAL Makes Its Totally Rad Debut, Packed with Awesome Young Talent
Remember jumpsuits and jelly bracelets? Bop and the Brat Pack? The videotape format war?
Those good old days are back in John Hughes HIGH: THE 1980's TEEN MUSICAL, now getting its world premiere from Staged! our local musical theatre training program. This new musical, by Portland writing team Mark LaPierre and Eric Nordin, is a most excellent tribute to the best decade ever, featuring a cast of incredibly talented young performers from the S! Conservatory. It's wicked fun.
The plot is straight out of every John Hughes movie: it's yearbook awards time and the students are vying for recognition. Meanwhile, Samantha, the new girl, is having trouble fitting in. Her French teacher tells her about a study abroad opportunity, but her mom will only let her go if she wins the award for "Most Friendly." So, she hatches a plan to befriend members of the various cliques (the Real Geniuses, the Dancers, the Rebels, etc.) so they'll vote for her. It's quintessential '80s teenage drama and also a great lesson in how to make friends. The script is funny and the '80s-inspired music will make you want to break into the Running Man, or at least clap along.
Almost the entire cast is made up of teenagers who are studying musical theatre. Most are in their junior or senior years of high school or their freshman year of college. These young performers are awesome! They can sing, act, dance, tell jokes -- I was impressed across the board, by both their talent and their professionalism. Every single one of them creates a vibrant, compelling character, regardless of the size of the role. As a result, we get to know and care about them as distinct human beings, which is a central theme of the show (and many '80s movies), but not easy to do with a cast of 22. Keep this group in mind for Best Ensemble in a Musical when Broadway World Awards time rolls around -- did I mention they can sing?
Overall, this is one of the most exciting shows I've seen in a while, and not just because I grew up in the '80s. What makes it so exciting is that it showcases the fantastic up-and-coming talent we have here in Portland -- both the writing team and the next generation of musical theatre performers.