Bust out your neon clothing and shoulder pads and get down to Break Room 86 because the Brat Pack is back with an energetic dose of musical nostalgia. The award-winning For the Record series, known for unconventional part-concert, part-musical theater experiences featuring the soundtracks of popular movies, returns to Los Angeles after a successful holiday season run of Love Actually Live with For the Record: The Brat Pack. Combining the plots of several beloved 80s classics and featuring popular 80s hit songs sung by a very talented cast, the result is a fun night out that goes beyond your typical “theater” experience.
Break Room 86 is an 80s themed bar that features classic video arcade games, and it provides the perfect setting for The Brat Pack. Every aspect of the experience is thought out, from the specifically curated cocktail menu, which includes drinks called the “Bueller, Bueller” and the “Banana in the Tailpipe,” to retro lunch boxes stocked with sandwiches by PBJ.LA and boozy Capri-Suns. The doors open an hour before the performance, giving the audience time to explore and enjoy the space. If you’re lucky, you may even be sent to “detention,” which is a private karaoke room where some ticket holders got to join the cast in renditions of “Personal Jesus” and “I Love Rock n’ Roll” on opening night. The seating is cabaret style, with the action taking place all around the bar and servers coming through during the performance to refill drinks.
The show itself combines elements from Sixteen Candles, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, St. Elmos Fire, Pretty In Pink, Valley Girl, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind Of Wonderful and Say Anything into one big 80s mega-experience. A teacher slash narrator character (Doug Kreeger) attempts to streamline things, but honestly, the narrative is pretty muddled and flimsy, a likely result of attempting to include aspects of so many movies. But what this experience lacks in a coherent story it makes up for with talent and pure fun.
The characters are defined by high school stereotypes, a la The Breakfast Club. There’s the princess (Parissa Koo), the geek (Kyle Sherman), the athlete (Patrick Ortiz), the basket case (Emily Lopez), and the criminal (James Byous), and as they hurtle towards prom and graduation they deal with love triangles and other common varieties of high school drama. Some scenes make more sense than others—naturally, the group goes to detention and sings a rendition of “Don’t You Forget About Me,” although moments like “Weird Science,” wherein the geek and the athlete build their dream girl, feel more forced. Focusing on one movie rather than trying to combine an entire decade of cinema into 90 minutes would probably result in a clearer throughline, but when the cast is singing their faces off and bouncing through the space, it is easy to forget about any shortcomings in the structure.
Directed by Anderson Davis with choreography by Sumie Maeda and music supervision and arrangements by Jesse Vargas, every member of the ensemble is very good, although two in particular are knock-your-socks off great. Koo is magnetic as the princess, and her rendition of David Bowie’s “Changes” is a highlight of the show. Sherman has a voice that will make your jaw drop the first time you hear it, and he is appropriately a ball of nervous energy while belting out Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness.” Another musical highlight performed by the entire group is Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” with everyone accompanying themselves on the drums. Unlike at a more formal theater experience, audience participation is encouraged, including singing and clapping along and taking (non-flash) photos and videos.
Genre-defying crossover productions like this are great because they can introduce an audience who may be less likely to seek out a formal theater production to that world, and to some truly talented musical theater actors. If you like 80s music and unique venues, you will surely enjoy this latest iteration of For The Record, which is more than just a performance—it’s a fun and different night out in Los Angeles.
For The Record: The Brat Pack runs at Break Room 86 (2nd floor of the LINE Hotel) through June 9th. General admission is $86. A very limited number of standing room tickets are available each night for $19.86. The running time is 90 minutes. Doors open one hour before showtime, and there is a 2 drink minimum. This is strictly a 21+ venue. Performances are Thursday through Sunday at 7:30pm. For tickets, click here.