For the Record Presents Dear John Hughes –80s Teens, Live and Fresh

Every recent generation has seminal movies they can look back to and remember where they were from and where they were going.  The John Hughes movies have that effect on me.  From going to the drive-in to see Sixteen Candles to identifying myself in the archetypes presented in The Breakfast Club, I found that John Hughes presented 1980s teens in a new light: self-aware, hungering to experience life, and having emotional depths that belied the times.  The Breakfast Club is thirty years old this year.  I went to see a revival of the movie this week and I have to say, the movie holds up.  This longevity is never more apparent than in the new Broadway in Chicago short run of For the Record Presents Dear John Hughes.  This production at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, is the latest in the For the Record LIVE series, takes on the vignettes and music from John Hughes films and their soundtracks.  This production brings me back to those intense teen times when love and dreams of something more in life were there for the taking.

 

Cast at prom in Pretty In Pink

The cabaret-style performance uses the The Breakfast Club as the motif to showcase the sights and sounds of Hughes’s work.  The character archetypes: princess, athlete, brain, criminal, and basket case begin in detention, berated by their teacher-monitor, played for laughs on opening night by Patrick Mulvey as Mr.  Through a series of chapters, these characters are depicted in a loosely tied story that brings to life scenes from the films along with many of the most memorable songs.  The use of dance (choreography by Spencer Liff), light, the band on stage (music arrangements and direction by Christopher Lloyd Bratten), and the entire auditorium provide the audience much to hear and see as we move through the stories of these beloved characters and their interactions.

 

Patrick Mulvey as Principal Richard Vernon from The Breakfast Club

In Chapter One, the Princess and the Athlete play their roles and bring to life Sixteen Candles characters and others.  Olivia Harris, the Princess, has a fine voice and an expressive face.  The Athlete, Payton Lewis, brought the house down with his version of True by Spandau Ballet.  My favorite song in the first act, though, was the Brain’s (Michael Thomas Grant) performance of Try a Little Tenderness (original by Otis Redding).  Grant has terrific charisma and amped up all of his numbers and interactions with the other characters.

 

Olivia Harris as Andie Walsh at prom in Pretty In Pink

In Chapter Two, the Criminal (James Byous) and the Basket Case (played by Rumor Willis for the first week of the run, and then Evan Rachel Wood steps up March 12-15) revved up the crowd with Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell and Turn to the Sky from The March Violets.  Both actors are pleasing and keep us in the story, where they take on Some Kind of Wonderful.

Rumer Willis as Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful performing Turn To The Sky

The Brain ruled Chapter Three where Grant and Lewis have fun with Weird Science.  Before intermission, the ensemble returned and had the audience clapping and singing to the Beatles’s Twist and Shout.

 

Cast performing Twist And Shout from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

After the break, the final Chapters turned to Prom and Detention.  All the performers were given opportunities to shine and for the most part, they delivered.  I loved the perennial favs from the show – If You leave from OMD and Don’t You Forget About Me by Simple Minds at the end of the show.  And I enjoyed the homage to The Breakfast Club with We are Not Alone from Nik Kershaw, complete with re-creations of the dance moves delivered in the original film.   

 

In addition to the other characters described, the role of Mrs (who inhabits various parts including a hilarious turn as the Annie Potts role in Pretty in Pink) was played by Jackie Seiden.  The band was excellent and added to the fun of the show.  The entire night had high energy and the use of the entire auditorium kept the audience engaged.   The audience was encouraged to get into it and they delivered.  I might have sung along with a song or two myself.

 

There were a couple of sound issues, particularly with one of the cast member’s microphones that took a while to fix – I’ll assume that gets fixed for the rest of the run.  I personally did not like the use of a set of spotlights that pointed brightly out into the crowd, especially at the beginning of the show.  I didn’t think it was necessary and was mildly aggravating (as in I and other audience members had to shield my eyes).    My knowledge of the films portrayed greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this performance, especially with all the vignettes and in-jokes, but I think most people will be entertained regardless.

 

I highly recommend For the Record Presents Dear John Hughes.  For the Record has been staging these types of shows over the past six years, taking on Tarantino and Scorsese films and soundtracks in other production.  I’ll definitely look for them in the future.

 

This performance is only playing at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place through March 15.   Individual tickets range from $32 - $79.  Please call the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line at 800.775.2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations, or online for tickets.

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