EVANSTON — Evanston was host to a slew of celebrities over the weekend of Aug. 9-10, with some of the biggest names in 1980s music and comedy bringing their talents to the Strand Theater, including the likes of John Cougar Mellencamp, Fleetwood Mac, Def Leppard, Cyndi Lauper, Dire Straits, Willie Nelson, Rodney Dangerfield, Cher and many more. The artists graced the stage for two performances in a fundraiser for the Strand.
In actuality, Sagebrush Theatre’s “Music of the ’80s” show featured performances from local residents taking on the roles of 1980s icons. Written and directed by Candi DeCoite, AJ Lamb and Mark Madia, the show included musical selections, news tidbits, comedy sketches and more from each year of the decade that saw the rise of music videos and MTV.
Local band Bone, consisting of Madia, Preston Kofoed, Davis Wallberg, Squire Meyer and Dave Wilkinson, took on several musical numbers, including Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309,” John Cougar’s “Hurts so Good,” Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” and REM’s “The One I Love.” Randy Garner and Austin Meeks channeled the comedic talents of two of the decade’s biggest comedians, Rodney Dangerfield and Steven Wright.
Madia took on the roles of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as radio DJ Casey Kasem, while introducing acts and sharing the news highlights from each year from 1980 through 1989, assisted by Lamb. Local women performers included Anjoli Mosier, Erinne Beachler, Cindy Crawford and Madison Sepos. Male performers included teens Robertson Walker, Aidan McGuire and Gage Beachler, as well as Eric Dean and Vern Hopkin. Youngsters Amauree Lewis and Bella McGuire served as backup dancers for several selections.
Behind-the-scenes crew members working on makeup, costumes, props, sound and lighting included Suzanne MacEwen, Kayne Pyatt, Ash Autumn, Eric Pasenelli and Larissa Sneider.
The fun and silliness of the decade were on full display in the bright costume selections, as well as some video mashups shown on the big screen, especially those highlighting the birth of MTV in 1981.
By far the largest audience reaction for both shows came during the closing number, Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” when a full six performers channeled the icon, including two men, as Lamb and Aidan McGuire donned black dresses, heels and wigs, eliciting cheers and loud laughter from those in attendance.
DeCoite said the show was a great success thanks to a “wonderful and dedicated cast that dedicated a week of their summer to make this show so awesome.” The show raised between $500-600 for the Strand, which continues to be renovated following the 2007 fire that destroyed the historic building.