Sweep your teased hair into a side ponytail, adjust your shoulder pads and slip into your rad acid-washed jeans—the ’80s are, like, totally returning to Moorestown High School next month.
The high school will stage The Wedding Singer as its spring musical, bringing to life the tale of a popular New Jersey wedding singer whose own love life hits the skids.
The audience can expect the full range of awesome ’80s nostalgia, director Greg Harr promised. Big hair? Check. Sweet dance moves like the running man and sprinkler? Yep. An appearance by Billy Idol? Oh yeah.
“This is an incredibly fun, high-energy show,” Harr, a history teacher, said. “It has great music and dancing and even though it’s truly an ’80s show, the best thing is there is new music; it’s not filled with tribute songs.”
Harr is overseeing a cast of 55, a student production team, a pit orchestra and adult professional and community volunteers. It's that collaborative effort that makes Moorestown’s annual spring musical so special, he said.
“The students are getting the benefit of working with professionals, like Dann (Dunn, the choreographer), plus teachers and community volunteers. It makes for a really well-rounded experience,” Harr said.
Education and entertainment
Mounting a musical isn’t just about perfecting the songs and choreography. Harr operates by an “education and entertainment” credo—that is, students should learn as much as they should have fun and set out to amuse the audience.
The first order of The Wedding Singer education? Introduce students born in the mid-90s to life in 1980s New Jersey.
“We met early on and I went through the script with them, noting ’80s references. We compiled one giant list and the students researched slang terms, references to people, things like that,” Harr said. “Then they reported back, so they were learning from each other.”
But some lessons can only sink in in-person.
“When we started trying on costumes, students would come out and say, ‘This doesn’t fit me right.’ I had to tell them, yes, that’s how clothes were,” Harr said. “Some things were just baffling to them.”
Certain Moorestown residents should get a kick out of those odd-fitting costumes. Harr put out a call for clothing donations and ended up with racks of ’80s prom dresses, parachute pants, lace dresses and more.
“It should be a lot of fun for community members to see their old clothes on stage,” he said.
Getting into character
Rehearsals are in high gear for The Wedding Singer, which opens March 1. On a recent visit, the cast was busy rehearsing the opening number, “It’s Your Wedding Day,” when the audience gets introduced to Robbie Hart, Ridgewood, NJ’s preeminent wedding singer.
Moorestown sophomore Josh Toro steps into Robbie’s high-top sneakers. A Journey fan who plays in a band, Toro quickly took to the material.
“'80s music really has a similar sound to a lot of the music out today, that synth-y sound,” he said. “And this show is about having fun. I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.”
Senior Amy Caffrey plays the female lead Julia—a love interest for Robbie, although she has her own relationship woes to deal with. Caffrey confesses to a case of the nerves as she prepares to lead her first show.
“But this has been really fun. I’m gaining a lot of self-confidence and learning that yes, I can go out and perform in front of a big audience,” she said.
That’s heavy metal music to Harr’s ears as the final pieces fall into place for The Wedding Singer.
“There aren’t theater classes here, so performing in the musical and the fall play are the opportunities students get to be involved in a full production. First and foremost, I want them to feel comfortable and feel cared for,” Harr said. “But we also want them to test themselves. Performing can be a very difficult thing to do, but all of our students are working hard and having fun. If they have fun, if they learn something, if they entertain the audience, then we’re a success.”
The Wedding Singer will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on March 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 with a special senior citizens’ performance March 7 at noon. Tickets are $12/adults and $10/students and senior citizens. Tickets will be available at the door or by advance sale in the high school’s main lobby, 2-3 p.m., Feb. 27-March 2. For more information, visit Moorestown High School’s theater site.