Back to the Eighties is a strange variation on the Jukebox Musical by Neil Gooding where instead of using all songs from one band, only songs from one decade (the 80s) are used. The musical focuses on the senior year of fictional American high school William Ocean High, particularly an uncool kid named Corey Palmer with a crush on popular girl Tiffany Houston, a hatred of popular guy Michael Feldman and rather unfair feelings of superiority towards loveable nerd Feargal McFerrin III.
The show is subtitled "The Totally Awesome Musical", and it doesn't really get any less cheesy from that point on...
This work provides examples of:
- Alpha Bitch: Cyndi.
- Ambiguously Gay: Alf Bueller is described as "destined to remain a bachelor" and also blows Corey a kiss at one point. The ambiguity is arguably because Alf is just so weird that that might be what's keeping him single.
- BSoD Song: "Centerfold", for Mr Cocker; per the script directions, it verges on a Sanity Slippage Song. "You Give Love A Bad Name (Reprise)" to a lesser extent.
- Butt-Monkey: Feargal, initially.
- Decoy Protagonist: Corey Jnr., arguably. We know he grows into Corey Snr., but we don't see it happen; he remains a relatively unchanging Flat Character throughout the show. The true protagonists of the show are arguably Feargal and Mr Cocker; unlike pretty much everyone else, they experience actual Character Development.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Billy gets a whole scene of being rejected by Cyndi.
- Dream Sequence: "Centerfold", for Mr Cocker. Weirdly handled in that it's bracketed by unambiguous reality and he doesn't fall asleep - it's more of a hallucination sequence.
- Excuse Plot: Basically. Very much a device to provide context for the music. The only plots that really develop are Mr Cocker/Miss Brannigan, and Feargal.
- Flash Back: The entire show is basically a series of flashbacks had by the narrator, Corey Palmer Snr.
- Heroic BSoD: Mr Cocker does not take the revelation of Miss Brannigan's modelling career well.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Mr Miyagi, the Japanese teacher/Martial Arts instructor. Although we do hear his voice, once.
- Higher Self: The show is narrated by Corey Palmer's older self ("Corey Snr" in the script).
- Hot Teacher: Miss Brannigan. Her plot with Mr Cocker revolves around the fact that she was a model a decade and a half before.
- Informed Flaw: "Feargal was the kind of guy who could bring feelings of happiness and laughter to a room simply by leaving it."
- Jerk Jock: Michael Feldman. An oddly dark variation - you can see that below the surface, Michael is a genuinely bad person.
- Jukebox Musical: sort of.
- Large Ham: Mr Cocker, through the second act.
- Lemony Narrator: Corey Snr. is not above mocking his younger self and his ex-classmates in his narrations.
- Love Triangle: Corey and Michael both have a crush on Tiffany.
- Manchild: Mr Cocker has this going on; he's one of the more naive, less worldly people in the show.
- Minored In Ass Kicking: Feargal, almost literally - he takes extra-curricular martial arts lessons.
- Musical Theme Naming: Everyone.
- Nerd: Corey Jnr. and co, and Feargal and co. Corey is a more relatable and realistic example; Feargal plays the stereotype to the hilt.
- Present-Day Past: Depending on the production, this can seep in with Corey Snr. His scenes are often played as modern-day, but he's a thirtyish guy who went to high school in the late 1980s - he can't be much later than about 2000.
- Shout-Out: Oh boy. For starters, every single character (even ones we don't see on-stage) is named after a famous '80s personage. Then there are on-stage conversations about The A-Team, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Star Wars, etc. And some scenes are clearly an Affectionate Parody of similar scenes from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Karate Kid.
- Stern Teacher: Mr Cocker, mostly.
- This Loser Is You: The audience is clearly supposed to relate to Corey, despite his being very low down the high-school food-chain.
- Those Two Guys: Alf and Kirk, Corey's best friends. Laura and Debbie could be seen as a female variant, as could Mel and Kim.
- [Verb] This!:Feargal: These are not just hands; they are lethal defensive weapons!
Michael: Oh yeah? Then defend this!
- Waxing Lyrical: Michael leaves fake love letters in Eileen's locker, all of which are made up of lines from famous songs put together.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Corey Senior gives a brief word on what the cast is doing now in the present:
- Eileen fell in love with Fergal after he defended her and they got married. Fergal's crazy predictions came true and he became a key contributor in creating the internet.
- Cocker and Brannigan were able to let bygones be bygones and walked down the aisle together. They still teach at Ocean High to this day, where Cocker is now principal.
- Women Are Wiser: While Mr Cocker is the more overt authority figure, Miss Brannigan is definitely the grown-up of the two.