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Awesome 80s Prom

Review of Awesome 80s Prom

Peoria Cabaret Theatre (at the Waterhouse)
By Cara Rosson

I have to admit that the “Awesome 80s Prom” dinner theatre experience at The Waterhouse had me hooked at the front door. The sign there welcomed Wanaget High’s Class of 1989 to the Senior Prom. I graduated from high school in the actual 1989, so I was terribly excited to see what the Peoria Cabaret Theatre would do to take me back to my own youth, and mostly fond memories of my chartreuse sequined dress, big hair, and bad boy date Tommy McKenna.

Just walking up the stairs, you start the evening meeting characters from the show. The first one I encountered was Wanaget High’s “bad boy,” Nick Fender, played by a sexy cool Nick Miller, sneaking a sip from his flask and nodding a subtle “Hey.” I was then greeted by the very chipper drama teacher, Mrs. Lascalzo – played with aplomb by Carmen McCarthy.

After checking in, and getting my table assignment from the sweetly self-effacing freshman yearbook photographer (an adorable Hope Grandon), I headed to the bar for a margarita, one thing I was not able to do at my senior prom but definitely enjoyed about this retrospective experience. One of the perks of aging, and dinner theatre, I suppose.

The immersion back into high school and prom night was continual. There was always some crazy conversation or intrigue happening next to you, or across the room. The cast does a great job of keeping the action going, giving the audience something to watch or listen to throughout the evening. Even if you couldn’t hear what they were saying, it was usually clear what was happening, whether the captain of the football team was breaking up with the head cheerleader, or Principal Smellgrove, I mean Snelgrove, was hollering at a misbehaving student, or the head of the prom committee was freaking out over her defaced decorations. It honestly felt a bit like I was back in Goshen, NY, in 1989, looking around the room of the Pier 9 banquet hall, watching my own senior class flirt, and fight, and dance and sing.

The cast represents well the classic 1980s high school characters, from nerds Louis Fensterspock and Kerri Kowalski, played by a wonderfully unashamed Chip Joyce and a brilliantly spastic Christine McDermet, to the typical machismo of football player “Beef” Beefarowski, done boldly by Derek Pitzer, to the class president and prom committee chair, appropriately preppy for 1989, acted with conviction by Damon Hackett and Kelly Kooken.

There are a few musical numbers. Cheerleaders Whitley, Heather and Heather do a cheer that morphs into a hysterically sexy dance to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” and prom committee chair Melissa Ann Mar-TIN (the aforementioned Kooken) and Drama Queen Dickie Harrington, played to the flaming hilt by Nyk Sutter, battle it out to Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl.

Be ready to participate, because you will be asked (if not necessarily forced). The DJ leads willing volunteers through a dance contest to The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and a singing contest to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” You get to dance up a storm yourself if you like – I got to dance with nerd Louis, hair still wet from a recent swirly. You can vote for the Prom King and Queen, and sign the purity pledge you WILL get from PTA president Lorraine Parker, played with drunken fun by Sandy Murphy.

The food is good, the references to pop culture of the era abound, as does the music of the late 1980s, and the atmosphere is engaging. I encourage you to dress up in your best 80s leftovers (even if you no longer have, or in my case, fit into, your prom dress). Many in the audience donned their Punky Brewster socks, or Miami Vice or Members Only jackets, or legwarmers and ripped sweatshirts a la Madonna. And it all added to this silly, funny, enjoyable 1980s flashback.

 
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