By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
CITY OF TONAWANDA — In one corner, teenagers bantered about a mysterious new technology they’ve just heard about — compact discs.
In another, the music of Wham! blares from a speaker as a quartet of girls dance. And from yet another, the peppy tones of “Mickey” echo from the bandshell out over the waters of the Niagara River.
It’s not a wormhole to the 1980s in Niawanda Park. It’s just that In Good Company’s production of “Back to the ‘80s” has moved on from rehearsals to the first practices for the leads of the more-than-100-person cast.
Melissa Tober, director, said that the June 20 session marked the third rehearsal for the show’s lead characters, a group of about young actors and actresses ranging from 12 to 19 years old. They’ve read the script through, than started going over basic blocking, entrances and exits, and a little bit of dance.
“We only have 23 rehearsals before the first show” July 29, she said, “so we have to utilize every minute.”
In the meanwhile, music director Bethany Rarick has been working with small groups, including the Valley Girls, a quartet of 10- and 11-year-olds who form a sort of chorus for the production. On June 20, they practiced “Believe It Or Not” (the theme song from “The Greatest American Hero,” a show most of them have probably never heard of) and “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.”
None of the Valley Girls — Marrissa Teter, 10; Annabella Bogart, 11; Paris Miller, 11; and Allison Tober, 10 — are old enough to remember the decade, but what they know, they like.
“It’s awesome. I’d have to say the ‘80s were one of the best periods for music,” Bogart said. “The ‘80s were fun!”
Several of them noted that some of the music and the fashions have even come back around, including the craze for all thing neon.
“I’m excited to dress up in all the bright colors,” Allison Tober said.
The musical is set at a fictitious high school at some point during the decade, evoking the period by music, dress, names, even humor. Melissa Tober said sometimes the last needs to be clarified for the young cast.
“There are so many jokes and the kids ... they just go right over their heads,” she said. “I have to stop and explain to them, this is funny because. ...”
For example, in one scene, a cell phone rings — and the group of high school students in the play is startled and confused. It’s not a scenario with which today’s teenagers are familiar.
“These kids don’t understand that,” Tober said. “The parents were reading the script and they were laughing at all the jokes. The parents in the crowd are definitely going to love it.”
The full cast was to start practicing June 24, with full music, dancing and the younger cast members — as young as 2 — and other participants joining in. Even the little ones will get their spotlight, Tober said.
“We try to really make sure everyone has their special little moment,” she said.