Bristol Riverside Theatre’s outdoor performance of Totally Awesome 80s at Bristol Township’s new open-air amphitheater – a great day trip and an easy ride down I95 to Bucks County, near the scenic Silver Lake Nature Preserve – was cancelled last night due to severe thunderstorms and flooding. Duh. But it went on as planned this afternoon and there’s truth in advertising, fer shur – it was, like, totally awesome, dude.
Part of its annual William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest concert series of themed shows featuring guest stars from Broadway and top Philadelphia-based artists (all of whom have appeared in past BRT productions and at the historic Walnut Street Theatre, among their other credits), the show was performed by the rad cast of Broadway’s Derrick Cobey (The Scottsboro Boys; Kiss Me, Kate) and Sean Thompson (Sunset Boulevard), actress and vocalist of the stage and screen Demetria Joyce Bailey (The Wire), and singer, actress, and lifestyle vlogger Laura Giknis (Disney Cruise Line’s Frozen, A Musical Spectacular).
Backed by Artistic Director and host Keith Baker and the BRT Concert Band, they covered some of the greatest hits of the decade by a variety of pop chart-toppers, including Tina Turner, Madonna, Lionel Ritchie, and Journey. The show opened with a high-energy rendition of The B-52s’ “Love Shack” (one of my personal all-time faves), with all four of the ebullient cast members singing, dancing, and jumping around the stage. It set the tone for the afternoon and had the audience stoked – moving, clapping, and singing along to the upbeat song, as everyone did throughout the entire retro-concert.
There were legit period-style costumes that the singers changed to suit the moods of their songs, and instrumentals that perfectly captured the sounds of the ‘80s, with guitarist Neil Nemitz explaining and demonstrating the popular techniques of hammer-on, pull-off, harmonic, and whammy bar. There were solos, duets, and group numbers, all highlighting the cast’s powerhouse voices, well-matched back-up vocals and harmonies, and killer moves.
Thompson brought his steamy hot stylings to “Every Breath You Take” and “Faith,” enhancing his smooth delivery with sexy grinds and pelvic thrusts. Cobey’s expressive version of “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” soft and romantic interpretation of “Let My Love Open the Door,” and shakin’ it on the title song of “Footloose” displayed his deep, rich, signature vibrato and amazing range.
Giknis and Bailey brought on the girl power, workin’ it with “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Bailey combined the best of disco and soul in “She Works Hard for the Money” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and matched Cobey’s resonant vibrato in their duet on “Endless Love.” And Giknis was just the right mix of fun and flirtatious in her blockbuster medley of “Material Girl” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (written by Philadelphia’s Robert Hazard from a male perspective, then repurposed for women by Cyndi Lauper in her smash recording) and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
The totally awesome foursome closed the show with an explosive performance of “Dancing in the Street” (originally released by Martha and the Vandellas in 1965, then recorded by Mick Jagger and David Bowie in 1985), which literally left the audience dancing in the amphitheater.
You still have one more chance to catch the concert next Saturday on its rescheduled rain date, so, Omigod, get your big hair and acid-washed jeans on, and head out on 95 for a bitchin’ trip down memory lane. Word.
Running Time: Approximately one hour and 40 minutes, without intermission.
Totally Awesome 80s plays on Saturday, July 24, at 8 pm, at the Bristol Township Amphitheater, 2501 Bath Road, Bristol, PA. For tickets, email or call the box office at (215) 785-0100, or go online. Those who held tickets for the cancelled performance will be automatically transferred to the new date.