There may have been nothing more '80s than spending the day at the mall. Gaslight Melodrama revisits a simpler time with "Valley Plaza Days" opening Friday.
For Michael Prince, Gaslight's artistic director, it was a great topic to tackle since he had just introduced his son, Jack, the oeuvre of teen romcom filmmaker John Hughes.
"I've always loved '80s music and I grew up in the '80s and '90s and practically lived at the mall, so it seemed a good time to do it," he wrote in an email.
"Days" romanticizes a time when people weren't focused on their smartphones and music was purchased in physical not digital form at places like Musicland, the precursor to Sam Goody. It's set at a specific time: April 14, 1983, the day David Bowie's "Let's Dance" album came out.
Prince plays Musicland manager Space Dog, an older, hippie type guy who now works in retail while still holding onto his counter culture ideals. He oversees employees Rita (Tessa Ogles), a diehard Madonna fan, and Lucy (Victoria Tiger) who's more into hard-core punk.
Prince said he was writing from experience based on his time managing a Sam Goody in the mid-'90s in downtown Sacramento as well as the one in the now-defunct East Hills Mall.
"... So I have a lot of fond memories of the mall and malls in general," Prince wrote. "When I lived in Sacramento, my two roommates at the time also worked at the downtown Sacramento mall, so I guess you could say we were mallrats."
"Days" also features the Glimmer twins, Graham (Chayce Perlis) and Grace (Shelby Perlis), who must stop decency crusader Tipper Galore (Tamara White) who schemes with tycoon Sam Goody (Michael Kubik) to kick Musicland out of the mall.
The show features a soundtrack any '80s fan will love including Bowie, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Jefferson Starship, The Go-Go's and Duran Duran. Prince said he hopes it sparks some nostalgia.
"I would like audiences to take away a feeling of hope and remembrance," he wrote. "To a time in their lives when things didn't seem so complicated and the little things, like getting a new piece of music or telling your crush you liked them, were the most important things in the world."
Following the show is the vaudeville revue "Dumped: The Musical," written and directed by Gaslight musical director Warren Dobson. Set to the music of Burt Bacharach, it's the story of four women who are jilted at the altar and find their would-be husbands trying to grovel their way back to them.