Reliving the awesome ’80s High Tech High School to host interactive musical on Halloween

On Halloween, High Tech High School’s musical theatre department will host a “Totally Awesome ’80s Party” to raise funds for their upcoming spring production of “Cabaret.”

Guests at the performance can be a part of the party, which will feature impersonations of Bill Cosby, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Strawberry Shortcake, Punky Brewster, and a slew of other stars and characters from the decade.

Students will perform the songs and impersonate other ’80s personas.

Music Department Director Alex Perez said that the show is for all ages and that beverages, cheese platters, and ’80s candy will be available for guests. In a separate room, there will be video games from the decade. Guests will be able to take part in costume contests, in which the scariest, most creative and most ’80s ensembles will be rewarded.

Perez and his students have been working on the production since last May.

“I was noticing over the last couple of years that the decades always come back, but more notably, the ’80s are really coming back in a variety of ways,” said Perez.

Perez said that after he got tired of telling students that much of their fashion and music stemmed from icons like Michael Jackson and Madonna, he decided to make it an educational experience.

The “party” will take place in 1989. While the students spent countless hours memorizing music videos on, Perez said that they also learned all of the parallels between 1989 and today.

“What was going on in politics and government is similar to what’s going on today, and the economy was horrible [in the 1980s],” said Perez.

Tickets will be $10 per person for the two shows on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and performances will last until 11 p.m.

Instead of performing on stage, the show will take place at the High School’s atrium, which students will decorate with Rubik’s Cubes and other memorabilia.

Interactive theatre

Perez said that it has been about six years since the high school performed a “circle-theatre” production, in which the audience is surrounded by the production, rather than facing a stage. He said he wanted his students to do interactive theatre to broaden their skills.

“It’s like a mind game,” said Bayonne resident Nicole Ramirez, who will be a dueling break-dancer off stage. “You have to convince yourself of where you are and who you are, but still being conscious of what’s going on around you.”

Danielle Panariello will take the part of the washed-up soap star Brenda Dixon. She said the energy and stamina they must give for this show is “unbelievable.”

Panariello, who moved from North Bergen to Union City last year, said that she has been brushing up on her history of 1989 since she will have to remain authentic. For instance, during that election, George H. W. Bush ran against Michael Dukakis.

“It’s kind of weird trying to picture my life without a cell phone,” said Panariello.

Staying in character

North Bergen resident Riana Balahadia will act the part of Mario from the video game Mario Brothers, and will sing “Conga” by Gloria Estefan. She said that her family would probably try and make her break character, but it is her job as an actor to not let that happen.

“I live in mushroom kingdom,” said Balahadia.

Michael Martinez will be Bob Ross and will perform “I Ran” by A Flock of Seagulls. He will teach patrons how to paint trees, as Ross had a famous television show throughout the 1980s.

“For this experience, it’s not like a traditional play,” said Balahadia. “You don’t have a set of words. You have to be on your toes the whole time, and the whole point is to entertain the audience.”

Ralph Densing of Bayonne will take the part of Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid.”

“I go around telling people that I’m searching for the next karate kid, and I’m going around training people for the final tournament,” said Densing.

Need the community

Perez said that the Music Department needs the community to come out and support the arts.

Recently they produced a music video of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Cyndi Lauper. Perez said that many people called the high school to ask about the performance. Another video, “I Want to Rock” by Twisted Sister, will be posted on soon.

“Spring productions cost a lot of money and we don’t get any direct help from the school, where other schools usually get a check, but we don’t have that luxury here, which is actually is great because the kids realize that they need to work on things on their own,” said Perez.

For more information call (201) 854-2903.

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