REVIEW: "REWIND – A New 80's Musical," Hollywood Fringe Festival
Tommy and Mark spend much time prepping for their co-writing sessions with “joint” collaboration.
What do you get when you put an award winning director together with a team of writers/producers with a Top 10 hit in their pocket? You get “Rewind – A New 80’s Musical!”
In 2015, “Rewind – A New 80’s Musical” was scheduled as a staged reading for three days at the Hudson Backstage Theatre during the Hollywood Fringe Festival with sold-out standing ovations all. Rightfully, even back then, “Rewind…” earned the nomination for “Outstanding Songwriting for Musical Theater,” and was hailed the “It” show of the festival.
Once again, it is being featured in the current 2019 Hollywood Fringe Festival, with virtually the same kind of success as before. Playing at the Actors Company, Let Live Theatre, 916 Formosa Ave., LA, CA 90046, the show is directed and choreographed by Nancy Dobbs Owen (“War Bride,” “Enron,” Outstanding Direction/Choreography; StageSceneLA Awards; “Sweeney Todd,” Ovation Nominated), and assisted and stage managed by Darby Epperson. Director Owen is also a professional actor and AMDA dance instructor. The creative team responsible for book, music and lyrics are the brothers, Geoffrey and Sam Rose.
By the way, if you’re just arriving to planet earth, the Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community. Each June, the arts infiltrate the Hollywood neighborhoods, where fully equipped theaters, parks, clubs, churches, restaurants and other unexpected places host hundreds of productions by local, national, and international arts companies as well as independent performers. Currently it’s the place to be if you’re looking for non-stop theatrical entertainment, with this year’s calendar spanning from June 13th through June 30th.
Six performances are scheduled of this show, with four remaining to date: June 16th at 5pm, June 21st at 9:30pm, June 27th at 7pm and June 29th at 11:55pm. Tickets are available at: hff19.org/5799. But use the discount code for a quick $5 off: Rewind85.
“Rewind…” is a musical tale about love, redemption and the magic of second chances. A powerful producer derails a young girl’s promising music career, and she spends the next 50 years waiting tables. 50 years? But when he finally meets an unspecified and untimely end, he is barred from heaven. In order to earn his ticket uptown, he must, with a little nudge from the universe, rewind time and help her reclaim her true destiny within one year.
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve, 2019. Here we see 67 year-old Gina Spinelli waiting tables at a dirty, run-down eatery in Greenwich Village, New York City. Just as her last customer leaves, she clears his dishes and finds a business card with an odd, cryptic message. The card claims she has the power to turn back time and save a lost soul. Closing her eyes, she fondly remembers the days, long past now, when she was on track to be the next mega-star. As she ponders her missed opportunities in life, she suddenly gets an overpowering urge. Looking again at the card, a tinge of adrenaline gives her a little shiver of excitement. This can’t be real…but then, what does she have to lose? Clutching the card to her chest, she says the magic words written on the back and amazingly, all at once, it’s 1985!
The show is a 90-minute timeless adventure that keeps you guessing, but so well entertained! Integrated with a pulsing score and electrifying performances by an impressive company of actors, the musical stars seven veteran actors in a high-energy production that is a carnival of delights. Uproariously funny, complete with a double love story, some of the best original pop songs ever written – not to mention, copious amounts of blue eyeshadow, cans of hairspray, and even a Star Wars Yoda impression. The result is a musical that will not only charm and amuse audiences of any age, but you will be singing these tunes in the shower for days.
Nigel (Nelson Hayne, “Master Class,” “My Fair Lady”), a savvy, narcissistic British music producer, unscrupulous both in business and love, is the central character. He also happens to be recently deceased. Tommy (Chris Kerrigan, “American Idiot,” “Jekyll & Hyde”), a former lead singer for the now defunct heavy metal band, “Hard Throb,” still clings to his former glory days and resists the pressure of growing up and moving forward in life, both personally and professionally. “My dad wants me to go into the family business…sheet metal. He says, think of it this way: Heavy Metal/Sheet Metal – You’re still in the metal business!”
Gina (Suzanne Slade, “Rent,” “Minimum Wage”), Tommy's neglected girlfriend, is a waitress at the Ark and Grill - a girl hiding from her past. She wants to kick the Rock 'n Roll lifestyle and put a real relationship together with Tommy. But there’s a big skeleton in her closet. She also is ready to leap out and change the course of her life, and just looking for the right big opportunity. “Dreams are like buses. Sometimes we come to the end of the line, and we gotta take a transfer.”
Mark (David Šášik, “Bonnie & Clyde,” “The Little Mermaid”), a transplanted Chicago Folk singer who dresses and speaks like a hippie from the sixties, is the song-writing partner and friend to Tommy. Born a generation or so late, he is musically and personally adrift. Tommy and Mark spend much time prepping for their co-writing sessions with “joint” collaboration. Darcy (Natalie Miller, “Shrek,” “ChuChu TV”) is a country music singer/songwriter just “off the boat” from Nashville, but beneath her sassy exterior lies a knowing old soul. Her solid middle-American values prove irresistible to Mark. “They tell me my music is too pop for country and too country for pop. Heck! They got me so mixed up, I’m nuttier than a Porta-Potty at a peanut festival!”
Ram (Thomas Adoue Polk, “Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”) plays the snappy, animated, ball of fire musical whiz kid from the San Fernando Valley, who is usually called the “Beat Maker” in the business. Ram’s best asset is he is musically fearless, unencumbered by self-doubt or, for that matter, any self-knowing whatsoever. Cookie (Megan Beard, “He Said/She Said,” “The Tiny Mustache”) plays an ambitious intern at Spire Records who is frustrated by her low-level desk job, and is fiercely determined to climb the music business ladder.
Geoffrey Rose and Sam Rose, identical twins and singer/songwriter/music producers who began their career in the 80’s, has created a paragon showpiece musical that is no doubt a crowning achievement to their early successes. Some of their musical milestones include a top 10 adult contemporary hit, “Nothing But the Radio On,” for Dave Koz (featuring Joey Diggs); also, “The Ride,” a song they wrote and performed for the first Karate Kid movie, and “Be There Now,” a commercial jingle for J. Walter Thompson and Sprint that aired during Super Bowl XXVI, the title of which has been permanently adopted by Sprint, the “Now” Network.
As music producers in the 80s, they developed many recording artists and re-imagined tunes for music publishing houses. And with “Rewind…” they’ve teamed up once again to create this nostalgic romp accompanied by an original score that celebrates the spirit of one of music’s most remarkable decades. Some of you will be compelled to get up and dance, and others will sing along and sway to the unforgettable sounds of 80’s music as it unfolds before your ears and eyes. Everyone will leave the show feeling uplifted, happy, and energized by this musical journey, making you feel as though you have been transported back to the time when 80's pop was hitting its peak of power, passion, and creativity.
The songs fused American pop, folk, and country together with a hint of glam rock, which was a very interesting mix. Ms. Slade’s hardcore "Just Like Velvet” is mind-bending and searing in the delivery. And it would be hard to match the addictive appeal of the wistfully empowering "Living in a Fantasy,” performed by the entire company, featuring Mr. Šášik and Mr. Kerrigan as Mark and Tommy.
In many of the scene changes, Mr. Šášik and Mr. Kerrigan performed with intuitive caricature, layered imagination and many times, expressive improv. It’s fascinating to watch good actors when they’re not speaking, not the focus of attention, but still on stage. In several scenes there were three sets of action taking place at the same time, and they all became wondrous moments for the audience.
The costumes, colors, accessories used, and hair styles sent you directly into an 80’s mode. And the actors, all very indicative of character, was well cast and synergized, and the action effected copybook portrayals in the show. When they filled the studio with their idyllic voices, it mesmerized the entire audience and produced big smiles. Congratulations to the director, producers, cast, technical staff and crew for a superb production.
The Show Report