BURLINGTON - When nearly 30 talented people take the stage...any stage...one would think that a cast like the one at Larenim Park Amphitheatre in Burlington would be a challenge for any director.

By Trish Morgan
For the News Tribune
BURLINGTON - When nearly 30 talented people take the stage...any stage...one would think that a cast like the one at Larenim Park Amphitheatre in Burlington would be a challenge for any director.
After all, this cast I am writing about today ranges from actors as young as early elementary school to well, let's say (cough, cough), to the more "experienced" age. For the sake of today's review, regardless of age, the actors are all "dudes" and "dudettes."
Personally, I know at least three-fourths of this cast and crew. We all come from small-town America, and we appear on-stage and off-stage together. Apple Alley Players, responsible for many "bogus" productions over the last 20-plus years, showcases some of THE BEST talent you'll see anywhere.
Now not "bogus" like we think of bogus meaning fake, or not authentic, but like the "bogus" of the 1980s, like when things were like "bogus" and like "radical"...like, you know, like I mean better than awesome. Big hair, Marty McFly kinda dudes.
Where else are you going to sit in a gorgeous outdoor arena, with a "close up and personal" vicarious experience with Judge Jay Courrier and the "type-casting" of his three sons! Jay's oldest son Justice brings a new meaning to the insensitive boyfriend of the 1980s - "way cool," yet guaranteed to bring some laughs with his teenage-dom.
Brother Jaiden - now he's a hoot. Every time he takes the stage, certainly playing against type - "fer sure!" One of my favorite pictures taken of this show is one with Judge Courrier and the first wedding party, with Jaiden "photo-bombing" in the back, looking straight at the camera, dead-pan, but hilarious as the wedding guest nightmare some of us have seen, or have heard of - "sloshed to the gills," barely able to walk. "Whatever"...Jaiden is hilarious.
Director Mark Ashby is a veteran of the western Maryland theatre scene, and also the director of local theater group Acting Out for ALS - which was begun in memory of his mother, Sharon.  Mark is a talent to be reckoned with himself, having years of acting and directing experience.
I know Mark Ashby, and he would not want this to be about him at all. But, he is worth a terrific mention. These "kids" love working with Mark. He mentors, he teaches, he encourages. They each respond to his direction and guidance on building characters and he leads by example. In other words, Mark has the gift of seeing and knowing the gifts an actor brings to the table. And, the best is brought to the stage.
This musical is rated PG, but just because there is the story of love, and break-ups, and a "somewhat-naughty" little old grandma (more on that in a minute). There's a teeny bit of language that some might find a little ornery, but by today's standards of Hollywood movies and video games, it is hardly worth mentioning.
Some of THE BEST character actors this side of the mountains of West Virginia are in this production. There are six more chances to see this cast act out the storyline, set in 1985 - made famous by Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in the 1998 movie. This weekend and next, Friday-Sunday, 8 p.m. I've seen it once, and next weekend, I'll see it again.
As with any review, there are always those special actors who make us feel, who shine, who own the stage. Actors who, for whatever reason, just make us laugh. Jaiden is one, Dannagale Accord is another. Dannagale has been involved in community theatre, mostly AAP, and she has been chomping at the bit to get her hands on a meaty role. Well, Dannagale, did you ever strike gold here! Folks, wait until you hear her sing a beautiful letter to her grandson...
girl has some pipes! And just when you're really into the song, BAM! There's something unexpected. Wait for it...you'll laugh your head off when this prim and proper, soon-to-be-a-teacher gal sings about her poor, "just-dumped-by-his-girlfriend" Robbie. And the creme de la creme? Watching and listening to Dannagale rap - priceless!!
Another one of my absolute favorites on this outdoor stage was shining star Denise Adams. She rocks as the "aim to please" Linda - reminding me of the fabulous Joan Jett in both character and voice. Her years of theatre experience and stage presence come through loud and clear. I could listen to her sing for days.
Clayton Muir - when you sang "Somebody Kill Me" - wow. You owned it, buddy. You've got skills, baby.
I also loved the ‘80s references through the entire show...sort of how the movie "Scream" referenced popular horror movies through its storyline. There were mentions of “Flashdance,” “Rocky,” Willis in “Different Strokes”…many more. See how many you can hear when you come to the show.
Now, there was one really great surprise for me. I knew Mikayla Dodge could sing. She does live performances all over the area, so I knew she must be good. Well, her reputation did not disappoint. She is FABULOUS! She's spectacular in one of my favorite numbers in the show called "Saturday Night in the City." Excellent choreography by Billy Price, perfectly executed by the cast, outstanding costuming for this number by Danise Whitlock and Laurie Clem (ooh la la la), and Mikayla. Worth the admission price right here, folks! And Michael McKenzie - that costume in this number. And those legs. "Party Hardy" in the city.
Other memorable songs include "Right In Front of Your Eyes," "If I Told You," oh, and again - Denise Adams in " Let Me Come Home"...perfection.
Last, the grand finale in Act II - those costumes. That choreography. The energy. The culmination of talent and music...brought me to my feet! Ronald Reagan, Billy Idol, Mr. T, Dana Bridges in more hair than she's ever had and in short dresses - those legs. Not quite as grand as Michael's, but close. And Brian Tucker - great to see you back on stage!
Going back to the ‘80s was fun for a couple of hours. "Cowabunga!" Rock On!
Be there. You'll support the performing arts, but more importantly, you'll applaud the journey and how these young people (and Judge Courrier LOL) brought the joy of all that is 1980s to life for just one moment in time.
Visit Apple Alley Players on Facebook for ticket information and directions.