Relive prom with a twist
August 13, 2010
Given the opportunity to go back in time and relive your high school prom, would you do it? What if you could stand back and watch the awkward moments play out without the risk of personal humiliation?
Now that sounds like a good time.
The Egyptian Theatre is presenting "The Awesome 80s Prom" through Aug. 22. The show is an interactive blast-from-the-past in which the audience members become part of the plot and determine who takes the titles of Prom King and Queen.
The show is directed by Daniel Simons, the founder of Salt Lake City’s Dark Horse Theatre Company, with assistant director/producer Amber Hansen. It features 21 actors including four Parkites.
The setting is 1989 at Wanaget High. The cast is comprised of representatives from every clique or social group you encountered in high school, including the head cheerleader, quintessential jock, sci-fi nerd, foreign exchange student and classic overachiever.
"It’s basically a heightened version of every 80s movie rolled into one," says cast member Wayne Burton.
Recommended Stories For You
The crux of the show is audience participation. Show-goers arrive at the theater at the same time cast members roll up via limo, bicycle and other modes of transportation.
"From the get-go, it is 1989 senior prom. You walk into it and you catch on pretty quickly," says Burton, who plays Dickie Harrington, Prom Queen – yes, queen – hopeful.
Audience members receive ballots at the door and cast their votes during interludes throughout the show. "It’s the characters’ jobs to convince the audience they deserve the title," Burton explains. That may entail various forms of in-your-face campaigning, he notes. "Foul play is not discouraged."
Audience members are encouraged to interact with the characters – they are, in effect, members of the student body at the prom.
As such, they are also subject to the wrath of Principal Snelgrove, played by real-life McPolin Elementary School principal Bob Edmiston. Armed with a loudspeaker and detention slips, Snelgrove’s job is to lay down the law. "My role is to control everything, but no one listens," he says.
Edmiston hasn’t been involved in an organized theatrical performance since the actual 1980s, but that the opportunity to work with the Egyptian and the cast was too tempting to pass up. "It’s been a good out-of-the-box experience for me," he says.
According to Kathryn Christensen, who plays Kerrie Kowalski, only about 20 percent of the show is scripted. The rest is improvisation based on audience participation and interaction. "As actors, we’ll pick up the vibe from the audience and feed off of that," she says. "It will be different every single night. You never know what we’re going to say or do."
Christensen jumped at the chance to return to high school without the teen angst and traumatic social situations. Then she realized that her character – a spazzy nerd with headgear and an uncontrollable crush on the football captain – hit a little too close to home. She found herself the target of some of the same jokes that marred her teenage years. "I might need therapy after this show," she laughs.
In addition to reliving the 80s through costuming and clichés, audience members can expect to hear – and dance to – their favorite retro tunes from the age of legwarmers and big hair.
Choreographer Tanya Taylor has fashioned routines to 80s hits including Michael Jackson’s "Smooth Criminal," the B-52s’ "Love Shack," Bobby Brown’s "My Prerogative" and The Bangles’ "Walk Like An Egyptian." The audience is fully expected to join in and cut a rug.
"I don’t see how you could come to the show and not have fun," Burton says. "If you love the 80s, you will love this show."
"The Awesome 80s Prom" is appropriate for all ages, Hansen says. She encourages dressing in ’80s attire (especially if it’s a froofy prom dress or outdated tux) and recommends arriving at the theater 30 minutes before show time to witness the characters’ entertaining entrances.
Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Doors open a half hour prior to the show. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door and $25 for cabaret seating. For tickets and more information, call 649-9371 or visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.