On Theater: OCC throws an 'Awesome '80s Prom'

Teenagers who came of age in the 1950s have "Grease" as a focal point. For those who matured in the '60s, it's "American Graffiti." And the kids from the '70s had their moment with "Saturday Night Fever."

Now the grads of the 1980s have their own special piece of nostalgia, an interactive show from Ken Davenport called "The Awesome '80s Prom," now on stage at Orange Coast College through Sunday. No matter when you graduated, you'll likely get a kick out of this one.

To begin with, only 25% of the show is scripted, according to director Alex Golson. The rest is all improvisation, a technique OCC drama students major in. And audience involvement, while optional, is encouraged — you just may be out there dancing with them.

There are, to be sure, certain cast members who will vie for your attention. A standout in this regard is the mistress of ceremonies, and also a prom queen candidate, played by Nicole Stier, who keeps her character humming even in her "down time."

It's hard to miss Inga, the Swedish foreign exchange student (Katelyn Sonetti), who displays as much leg as the law allows. And Mary Lopez is a hoot as the nerdish queen candidate thrust awkwardly into the spotlight.

The evening begins before you enter the Drama Lab Theater as Principal Snelgrove (Allie Smith) greets you suspiciously, making you think what a great women's prison warden she'd make. The school's name, by the way, is "Wanaget High," suggesting that such oversight is necessary.

For pure entertainment value, Rebecca Frechette takes the crown, singing a couple of numbers as student Tori, then returning in full Madonna regalia to lip-sync beautifully through the Material Girl's hit single "Like a Virgin."

The stereotypical self-absorbed cheerleader is splendidly rendered by Katie Powell, assisted by a pair of Heathers (Anastasia Lincoln and Dani Slajer), a reference to the teen movie of that title. Kenta Kawamoto has a blast sending up his own culture as Japanese student Feung Schwey.

The squarish class brainiac and the flamboyant wild child are presented with sharp comic flourish by Roy Davis and Izzy Mendoza, respectively.

There's a dance contest, as in other teen nostalgia movies, but since it's played out inside a circle of students it's difficult to view the contestants in the horseshoe seating format.

Where "The Awesome '80s Prom" really succeeds is in its ensemble play — the entire cast puts on a master class in improvisation that keeps one's eyes rotating like a tennis match. Golson and choreographer Angela Lopez have created a most naturalistic experience.

If you harbor a certain fondness for the days of "Pretty in Pink" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," Orange Coast College will bring back that wave of nostalgia with its spirited presentation of "The Awesome '80s Prom."

If You Go

What: "The Awesome '80s Prom"

Where: Orange Coast College, Drama Lab Theater, OCC, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa.

Where: Closing performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Cost: $10 to $18

Call: (714) 432-5880

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