Mater Dei time travel ‘Back to the 80s’

19 May 2023

Mater Dei College students went back to the era of big hair, neon, and leg warmers for their college production, ‘Back to the 80s – The Totally Awesome Musical’.

The storyline followed the graduating class of William Ocean High School as they lived through their final senior year and experienced the fun, heartbreak, love and loneliness of growing up, all set to the biggest hits of the 80s. Former student Corey Palmer, now 30-something, unveils the memories from his perspective.

Produced by Steve Marshall and written by Neil Gooding with arrangements by David Spicer Productions, students performed from 3 to 6 May at the Alan Shaw Centre.

Jacinta Dean, a Year 12 student who played the role of Miss Sheena Brannigan said:

‘The production process for me was so enjoyable. I look back now and feel so grateful to have been a part of such an exciting experience. A year ago, I would have admitted it would be something I would be too scared to try out for.

‘I will be taking away newfound confidence and flare for the arts that I was not aware I had until the production. I now wish to pursue further commitments regarding musical theatre and will be on the lookout for further opportunities. I also am grateful to have made such amazing friendships which I hope to extend past the production and for life.’

Dylan Jones, Year 11, who played the role of Micheal Feldman said:

‘This musical has given me the confidence to do more. It has brought me closer to a lot more people. Being in this role meant that we needed to be comfortable with each other. I was interacting with different years, and I have made so many new friends from so many different years. I even stayed connected with them after the final show, so that was amazing being in touch with them straight after means that our stage family will stay on forever.’

Rowan Barnard, Year 10, who played the role of Feargal McFerrin III said:

‘The production process for me was exciting from the very beginning. At every rehearsal I was involved in, I had a great time and was bonding more with people I did not know before.

‘The main highlight of the production was the day of performing for the first time in front of our first live audience. We met a few people that helped set up the sound and lights. We were prepared, ready to show our production to the public and to have a fun time.’

Kirra Francis, Year 11, who played the role of Mel Easton said:

‘The production process was an experience I will never forget. A highlight would be the dress rehearsal, where everything comes together on stage with costumes and lighting.’

Charlotte Gallagher, Year 11 who was part of the Chorus said,

‘From the audition, I could tell this production would be amazing because all the staff were enthusiastic and just wanted us to have fun. The day I found out I got in; I was thrilled to be a part of another production. I hope to return to Mater Dei and help for their next one!’

Lia Wertheim, Year 12 student who played the role of Cyndi Gibson said:

‘As a member of the cast, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Mrs Cooper, our incredible costume designer, blew all our minds with her ability to create outfits that had a clear connection to the decade of the 1980s. She made us feel comfortable and happy with what we wore.

‘The performances were, without a doubt, the highlight of the production for me. It was really fulfilling to finally be able to perform something that was the result of so much time, effort, and work on our part, and then to see the enjoyment on the faces of those who came to watch us make it rewarding.’

Steve commented:

‘The students did not surprise me because I knew they would deliver. I asked them to do three things: focus, be professional, and have fun. They did exactly that. And they were amazing!

‘There were two types of audience reactions. Those who lived in the 80s understood every joke and relived the nostalgia with the costumes, props and songs. Then there were the others born post-80s, who still had a massive affinity with the music and loved the entertainment value.

‘Musicals teach kids skills they often do not get to learn in any other environment. For me, the biggest benefit is facing their fears and self-doubts.

‘I hope our students take away knowing they can accomplish things they previously did not think were possible. Yesterday they could not; today, they can. They walk away with a newfound belief in themselves and better understand the terms sacrifice and resilience.’

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