Fun, loud, `Awesome' prom

Theater Review


In 1989, when The Awesome 80s Prom takes place, I was past my prom-going days. As to the much-younger man who accompanied me to this interactive show at the Hippodrome's M&T Bank Pavilion, he wasn't even born in 1989.

For him, the Prom may have seemed grown-up; for me, it was rather juvenile. But though we left with our ears ringing, we both had fun at this contrived, hokey, VERY LOUD, simulated prom.

Created and directed by Ken Davenport, The Awesome 80s Prom is currently running in New York and Minneapolis and will open in Chicago next month. The show's plot line is even thinner than its most famous forebear, Tony n' Tina's Wedding, but the interactive aspect is also less intimidating.

Basically, the event is a dance with a DJ playing '80s tunes and 10 actors competing for audience votes for king and queen of the Wanaget High prom. The actors portray high school stereotypes - the class president (James E. Bullard, looking mature enough to have repeated a few grades), the head cheerleader (Julie Kotarides, a talented dancer), a couple of nerds (Tim Lewis in the requisite broken-and-taped eyeglasses and Christine Reinhardt in a night brace), a flamboyant queen (Steve Love in Boy George regalia), etc.

The M&T Pavilion has been decorated with balloons and giant silver stars, and most of the "scenes" take place on a stage at the far end. The overall effect would be funnier if the room looked more like a school gym than a banquet hall, but the show as a whole fares better here than in New York, where the action is spread over a broader space and the sight lines are often poor to nonexistent.

Even here, however, my companion and I stood on chairs a few times to see what was happening in the middle of the dance floor, whether it was three cheerleaders performing a cheer that veered toward an MTV video, or a patron launching into a truly awesome display of breakdancing. We also got out on the dance floor ourselves, signed the head of the prom committee's yearbook and got handed a detention slip for "inappropriate behavior" from the principal (the minute we walked in the door).

It's all thoroughly silly, occasionally tasteless and VERY, VERY LOUD. Davenport cast the show locally, so it's surprising that the cast doesn't toss in more Baltimore references (the only one I heard was a mention of Pulaski Highway). And considering the price of admission, surely patrons could be given a slice of prom cake or a couple of cookies (Tony n' Tina's Wedding includes dinner).

But, judging from the way the first night crowd partied - many in prom attire - The Awesome 80s Prom will probably do just fine in Baltimore. Did I, as the song goes, have "The Time of My Life" at the Prom? Hardly. But I wouldn't slap the evening with a detention, either.

The Awesome 80s Prom is performed in the Hippodrome's M&T Bank Pavilion, 12 N. Eutaw St., at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (doors open at 7:30 p.m.), through Nov. 19. $37.50-$70. Call 410-547-SEAT.

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