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South Allegheny goes 'Back to the '80s'

| Monday, April 8, 2013, 11:00 p.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Everybody cut 'Footloose.'
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Ryan Bednar ar Corey Palmer Sr. narrates the beginning of the musical reminiscing about his high school years. He talks about each of the characters seated- himself which is Zachary Beauchamp as Corey Jr., Jenni Urban as Alf Bueller and Ronnie Perkins as Kirk Keaton. They are his two best friends.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | DailyNews
Katie Bell paints a backdrop in between rehearsing her part as Laura Wilde.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Katie Bell as Laura Wilde rollerblades by Bri Griffith as Ms. Sheena Branningan and Zachary Beauchamp as Corey Palmer Jr. in the song 'Kids in America.'
Jenni Urban as Alf Bueller and Ryan Bednar as Corey Palmer Sr. as a student do the worm.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Ryan Bednar as grown up Corey Palmer looks back at what the young Corey Palmer played by Zachary Beauchamp was like.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
The cast of Back to the 80's stop to pose for their senior photo during one of the numbers.

South Allegheny High School students are getting unlocked in time with their spring musical, “Back to the '80s.”

The show begins in 2001 with the central character, Corey Palmer Sr., played by high school senior Ryan Bednar, looking back on his teen years in the era of MTV and K-Cars. He sees a past version of himself and his friends. His reflections are set to the music of the era.

“It's very consuming,” Ryan said of the school's efforts to get ready for the show, which runs Thursday through Saturday.

Ryan, who got involved with the musical after being in the stage crew for last year's “Camp Rock,” said he liked the experience so much he came back this spring and talked a couple of buddies from the football team into coming with him.

His recruiting efforts are no doubt appreciated at the school, which had gone six years without staging a musical until last year.

Looking for a follow-up hit, producer Terri Mitchell said the review of '80s hits “is the perfect thing” for a school still building interest in drama.

“The story is built around the songs,” said Mitchell, who is a speech therapist for the district.

Featured songs like “Man in the Mirror,” “Lost in Your Eyes” and “Love Shack” may be pushing the 30-year mark but the cast of characters which includes cool kids, regular kids, nerds and outcasts, has a timeless appeal.

Freshman Ashley Dingledine, who plays the new girl at school Eileen Reagan, said of her character's story, “It's heartbreaking. I get stabbed in the back because I'm the new girl.”

The cliquish girls reject her and she is betrayed by a cute boy in her class. After she hits a low point, others try to help sing her out of funk with “Don't Worry, Be Happy” and “Come On Eileen.”

Senior Tyler Templeton, who plays Eileen's jilter Michael Feldman, said the character is a stretch for him.

“It's the complete opposite of me,” said Tyler. “I'm not popular or mean.”

Still, Tyler said he's getting into the role, especially the singing parts. “I love the music. I've been listening to '80s music since we started this.” Tyler, who plays guitar and is in two bands that do punk and metal music, said he is trying to talk his extracurricular bandmates into covering “Footloose” somewhere down the road.

Sophomore Carley Nicomatti, who plays a popular girl named Tiffany Houston and is the young Corey's love interest, said the play has given her insight into times gone by.

“They talk differently than we do,” she said, comparing characters to her classmates. “They say ‘radical' and nobody says that now.”

Even if some of the slang sounds funny, Carley said emotional appeal of the songs rings true. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” is fun, she said.

Other fun aspects of the show include nerdy references to “Star Wars,” “The Karate Kid” and other touchstones of that era. Celebrity watchers will appreciate the famous name amalgamates used for all the main characters.

Junior Jenni Urban, who'll be showing off some of her best dance steps while playing the best friend character Alf Bueller, said portraying a male character isn't that tough, “Once I get into costume.”

“That's what musicals are about,” she said. “Being a whole different person.”

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or

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