The 1980s – the Reagan era with its personalities, politics, entertainment and pop culture – has always had a special place in the American psyche, and it has experienced a resurgence over the past few years. Its recent popularity has been driven, in part, by a combination of nostalgia and science fiction stories such as “Ready Player One” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
This is, therefore, a perfect time for Lamb’s Players Theatre to bring back its popular 2010 revue miXtape. Originally presented at the Horton Grand Theatre, the musical is produced this time in Coronado and is a perfect fit for the group.
The performance consists a series of musical numbers and speeches, tied together by an introduction and epilogue. Beginning in the present, the tale has a few adults (played by performers, including Joy Yandell, David S. Humphrey and Janaya Mahealani Jones) suddenly go “back in time” to the 1980’s. They reminisce and relive their experiences with the political and social events, television series, arcade games, movies and songs of the period.
Creators Jon Lorenz, Colleen Kollar Smith and Associate Artistic Director Kerry Meads maintain a generally light tone with a production that is focused on delivering a good time. The talented ensemble members, including Yandell, Humphrey, Jones, A.J. Mendoza and Marqell Edward Clayton, provide their own unique interpretations of catchy songs such as “Eye of the Tiger,” “Danger Zone” and “Video Killed the Radio Star,” making the revue a satisfying night.
However, the show is more than just enjoyable music – it features serious sequences that add some touching moments to the evening. Scenes about the tragic Challenger disaster and the Aids epidemic are treated sensitively and supported by moving songs. A medley sung by Yandell, Jones and Angela Chatelain Avila, featuring Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” is especially memorable, because of the lyrics and the group’s beautiful vocals.
Aside from a few suggestive jokes that feel too toned down for a family audience, the only major issue with the play is a structural one that involves the use of the final monologue from “The Breakfast Club.” While Yandell’s impassioned delivery of the speech is one of the highlights of the production, the song that’s used during the speech in the movie (Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me,”) isn’t prominently featured until the end of Act One. The use of the tune would be a lot stronger if they played the song directly after the speech.
Meads directs the entire piece as a loving tribute to generation X, and practically dares the audience to count all the funny and enjoyable references she sneaks in during the show. Jemima Dutra’s costumes, Nathan Peirson’s lighting, Smith’s choreography, Patrick Duffy’s audio and Michael McKeon’s projections are all full of the details that describe, and pay homage to, the 1980s.
Critical to the production are the musicians, with direction and arrangements by Lorenz. Two band members, in particular, who shine are guitarist/front man Leo Correia, with songs such as “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Just Like Heaven,” and “Rik Ogden, who plays some cool electric guitar solos.
MiXtape seems destined to be a big hit once again for Lamb’s (the run is extended to September 1), and provides for a very enjoyable, and nostalgic, summer experience.