Fans of 1980s pop music are in luck this weekend, as Tahlequah High School Tiger Theatre is bringing its spring musical, “Back to the ‘80s,” to the stage.
The play, written by Neil Gooding, tells the story of the senior class of William Ocean High School that graduated in the 1980s, as remembered and seen through the eyes of Corey Palmer, who is now a 30-something.
The role of Palmer for the THS production is being played by two students: Jacob Dorlac, sophomore, who takes on the Palmer’s senior persona; and Kyle Peck, junior, who plays Palmer’s high school self.
Seventeen-year-old Palmer is in love with his next-door neighbor, Tiffany Houston, played by THS senior Lexy Morton. Houston is, predictably, one of the coolest girls in school and barely notices Palmer, as she is smitten with Michael Feldman, a popular, good-looking athlete. The part of Feldman is played by Max Smith, THS senior.
During one musical number, Palmer and Feldman have a tug-of-war with Houston, all the while singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” a song made popular by The Proclaimers and featured in the film “Benny and Joon.”
The play also touches on class elections, the arrival of new students, senior year, and even issues that arise between a couple of teachers.
The production begins at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 2-3 and 9-10, and takes place at the THS Performing Arts Center. Admission is $5 for students and $10 for adults.
Michael Peters, THS Tiger Theatre director, said the play has broad appeal for both adults and youth.
“People our age will love it, because we lived through it,” said Peters. “But when I mentioned it to the kids, they were really excited, because for them, the theme is very retro. I suppose the analogy would be the 1980s for these kids is what the 1950s were to us.”
According to Peters, casting took place in January, followed by rehearsal in mid-February.
“Wednesday’s dress rehearsal was that ‘click,’ moment,” said Peter. “We’ve been working in earnest for eight or more weeks, and Wednesday night was that moment a director always looks for, when you finally let go and the kids have to bring it to life - all the choreography, the acting and the music. You just have to trust it to come together, and it did. I was a very happy man.”
Over 40 people, including a handful of adults, are involved in the show.
“But to be honest, this production is student-driven,” said Peters. “If the students weren’t here and working, there would be no show. They get no grade for this, only the sheer enjoyment of performing. They’ve sacrificed their free time to make it happen, and it’s going to be great.”
The production even includes a Star Wars-themed scene.
“Oh, yes, it has a ‘Star Wars’ dream sequence, complete with a light saber battle,” said Peters. “Yoda makes a brief appearance; it’s really a lot of fun.”
Featured songs include “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Love Shack,” “Walking On Sunshine,” “Material Girl,” “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and “C’mon Eileen.”
Peters said the production is fraught with cultural references.
“It’s all popular music from the 1980s,” said Peters. “All the character names – even the high school name, ‘William Ocean High,’ which is Billy Ocean – has a humorous tie to that era.”
Peters is grateful to everyone who put in the time and effort to bring the play to life.
“I am indebted to each and every person in the cast and crew for the long hours, creative energy, the practical considerations and for striving to make the show happen,” he said. “I hope the understand it’s moments like these that remind me why this work is so very important.”
Tahlequah High School Tiger Theatre’s production of “Back to the ‘80s,” takes the stage at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 2-3 and 9-10, at the THS Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $5 for students, and $10 for adults.