True, that’s a proper noun, but let’s quibble not: You gotta love this dude, the producer/director of Planet Hollywood’s take on Evil Dead: The Musical, the first community theater-born production to hit the Strip, who refuses to quit his quest to become a mini-V Theater-impresario. Exhibit B: his blink-whoops-it’s-gone follow-up, The Awesome 80s Prom.
Now Exhibit C: The 80s Show, a revamp of audience-interactive Legwarmers: An 80s Musical, which shuttered for repairs several weeks ago. Reviewed here last fall, it was a sloppy piece of shtick set to that era’s pop hits that attempted to lampoon John Hughes movies and other coming-of-age flicks of the era, including The Breakfast Club, Say Anything and Pretty in Pink.
Yes, it’s better now, owing to a tightened structure, reshuffled cast, refocused story and improved choreography. Yet it’s still a low-rent goof—in itself, a legitimate stripe of Strip entertainment. So is the outrageously fun Evil Dead. Nagging problem: Such a camp-to-the-nth-degree tone succeeds for Evil Dead, a parody based on a campy movie series that skewered other campy horror films—and not so much for Hughes-style films with a certain sincerity and sweetness at their core.
Armed with hardcore mockery, The 80s Show aspires to be affection in disguise, but it often feels like the Hughes oeuvre is being bullied and hammered. Subtlety isn’t really an arrow in Michaels’ quiver, so other broad genres—dumb action movies, silly sci-fi films and over-the-top weepies would be better suited for this kind of balls-out comic assault.
Still, there are highly entertaining moments—especially when audience members are pulled onstage to wriggle and warble to “Addicted to Love,” “Video Killed the Radio Star,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” etc.—and the new cast is a likable bunch.
Remember, also, that The 80s Show isn’t rivaling the champ of ’80s tongue-in-cheekiness, the Venetian’s Rock of Ages, compared to which it’s Diet ’80s. (Although it could learn satiric principles from Rock, which grounds its two romantic leads in semi-normalcy, allowing the loony supporting characters to stand out more, rather than letting the entire show float into Cartoon Land.)
However, here’s a sincere salute to Michaels, a stubborn-as-hell showman who, as an empire-builder on his own, modest level, is determined to turn Sirc into Cirque.
STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Tasked with creating an ice cream flavor for NBC’s All-Star Celebrity Apprentice (which he lost to Trace Adkins), Penn Jillette whipped up “vanilla and chocolate magic swirtle,” now sold at Walgreens and Duane Reade. Mister Magic hopes you’ll make gallons of it disappear, only to reappear on your hips and ass. … Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef added two Komodo dragons to one already residing there, displaying them individually as “they may prove deadly to one another if kept in the same exhibit.” Similar to headliners sharing the same showroom. … Finally, ABC canceled How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life), co-starring MGM Grand comedy-club owner/headliner Brad Garrett. Surely, there’s another sitcom in Garrett’s future, rather than Living Off Stand-Up Comedy (For the Rest of His Life).
What songs would you select for an ’80s musical? Don’t worry, be happy, tell us in the comments or email suggestions to Steve.Bornfeld@VegasSeven.com.