By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
The scene: Tuesday night, and a packed house at the Mayfield.
The last time we met them — hey, last year around this time at the Mayfield — Bill and Ted were erupting from a time-travelling phone booth, the way one does, into the ‘80s.
Their quest, simple but profound? the “non-heinous” in music. And since this is the decade of party-hearty hits that are so contagiously danceable, so embedded in your brain you instantly transcend the lyrics and the residual mullets, they did not fail in this quixotic task.
The most excellent lads have tuned up their life goals since then. The concept here isn’t mired in existential obscurity: “Let’s go and create the ultimate mixtape.” As one of the decade’s star bands has it “that really really drives ‘em wild.” In Back To the ‘80s Part 2: The Adventure Continues, the sequel to last year’s Mayfield holiday special, Bill and Ted are searching for “true love” whilst avoiding “the non-bodacious trickery sounds of Air Supply.” As your guidance counsellor told you in high school, it’s good to have goals.
Like its predecessor, part 2 is a deluxe edition of the seasonal revues for which the Mayfield is justly renowned. This one, assembled by Will Marks and Gerrad Everard and staged by Dave Horak, is a venture that sidles up to your own nostalgia with a big spritz of parody and general sass.
The decades stars emerge from (and disappear back into) revolving doors in two outsized jukeboxes. And, thanks to the non-stop inventions of projection and video designer T. Erin Gruber, we’re in a giant light-up Pac-Man maze. The effects, enhanced by Leigh Ann Vardy’s lighting and Leona Brausen’s array of witty vintage costumes (check out the boots), are always fun to watch.
Bill and Ted (Brad Wiebe and Cameron MacDuffee) are not pushovers when it comes to current events. In the course of the Golden Girls sequence, and the news that somebody has killed J.R., they note that “this is not excellent at all.” They shiv Brian Mulroney: “what’s up government?” This is the only show of the season, I dare say, with a GST joke, and a dig at gold medal winner Ben Johnson. The Berlin Wall coming down? Bill and Ted are on it.
If the music didn’t get nailed, you might find the sheer amplitude of the song list more than a little daunting, even with a signature Love Shack cocktail in hand. But as usual — you gotta have faith, as the prophet George Michael has it — the musical forces led by Van Wilmott are most excellent. The band is expert. And the eight-member cast, set in motion by Christine Bandelow’s witty choreography, attacks with zest (and chops) every style of iconic ‘80s offering from the dopiest ballad to the fizziest pop number and most solemn rock anthem.
Survivor, Foreigner, Bananarama, Blondie, Joan Jett, Milli Vanilli fly by. Dolly, phil Collins, Hall and Oates…. Wigs get changed. The musical pageantry continues. Might I point out Vanessa Cobham’s dance contributions to the Flashdance number, or Jahlen Barnes expertly negotiating Purple Rain? Bandelow’s choreography for The Blues Brothers is sharp and, amusing. Let’s Get Physical is staged as group aerobic workout. Pamela Gordon and Kevin Dabbs are Roxette, and yes, “she’s got the look.”
They’re the hardest working cast in showbiz, and probably the fittest. But going for the gusto never looked more effortless. Let your mind move to the music.
Back To The 80s Part 2: The Adventure Continues
Theatre: Mayfield Dinner Theatre
Written and compiled by: Will Marks and Gerrad Everard
Staged by: Dave Horak
Choreographed by: Christine Bandelow
Running: through January 28
Tickets: 780-483-4051, mayfieldtheatre.ca