This March, the energetic and nostalgic, “For the Record: Dear John Hughes” has made its way to Chicago for a limited time, bringing the music and scenes of beloved ’80s classics to life on stage. The production, created by Shane Scheel, Christopher Lloyd Bratten and Anderson Davis presents live-action snippets from classics like “The Breakfast Club,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” among others, and weaves them together in an experience that is part concert and part theatrical production.
While well-intentioned and brimming with nostalgia, the show travels in too many directions to ever fully take flight. The chapters, which the show is divided into, provide some structure but each lacks the kind of narrative cohesion that is necessary to tie a production of this scale together. While classic movie lines and moments garner laughter and applause, their delight is short lived and the storyline potential that they provide is never fully realized.
Though the overall construction of the show is spontaneous at best and too fragmentary at worst, there are several individuals that provide fun and nostalgic energy, which ultimately carries the production. The talented Olivia Harris, who has taken on the role of Princess, amongst others, delivers classics like “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” with an angelic rasp that is a pleasure to listen to. Her genuine enthusiasm made up for some of what the show’s structure lacked in unity.
Rumer Willis (Basket Case), Payson Lewis (Athlete) and James Byous (Criminal) also provide driving forces within the production. Their humor and spirit are infectious in their various roles as they simultaneously embody various movie characters and provide their own take on the classic role tropes.
The set that lay somewhere between the realms of concert venue and production set was another enjoyable treat. The multi-level stage and occasional broken fourth wall fostered fun movement and refreshing audience interaction. At times, though, the cast travels to far back into the crowd and delivered scenes that would be much more enjoyable to watch without having to turn all the way around in your seat.
While the delivery of classic John Hughes’ scenes falls a bit flat throughout the production, beloved musical numbers like “Twist and Shout,” from the infamous Ferris Bueller parade scene, and “Don’t You Forget About Me,” from the adored “Breakfast Club” finale, also provide breaths of fresh air throughout the show. The air of expectancy and audience appreciation that accompanies them provides a fun and eager atmosphere in which audience members can re-experience the classic songs with all the enthusiasm that they are met with in the films.
The peaks and the valleys in “For the Record: Dear John Hughes” are numerous; it delivers several treats for those who are avid fans of the ’80s classics it revives, but faults in its foundations are a bit too frequent and pervasive to overlook. While it dwindles in these areas, though, a talented and endearing cast prop the production up on its feet and deliver moments that are sure to invoke nostalgia in each and every audience member.