LA’s Koreatown has a portal to Shermer, Illinois, circa 1986
For those who haven’t been in the past, For the Record offers theatrical adaptations not of iconic movies, but their soundtracks. Previous installations have drawn from the works of filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, and Baz Lurhmann, but this latest addition, titled , pulls from ’80s teen movies like Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The result is a light-hearted, audience-engaging performance through a decade of pre-social media high school angst.
While The Brat Pack isn’t necessarily an immersive show apart from some characters interactions between doors and showtime, it does take place in a themed bar. Previous For the Record performances have taken place in more traditional venues, but Brat Pack is staged at Break Room 86, one of the Houston Brothers’ several themed nightclubs. The Koreatown club is already steeped in 80s ephemera, including arcade games and walls plastered in hundreds of cassette tapes and era-appropriate band flyers. The venue opens an hour before the show, allowing guests the chance to get in the mood.
Saunter up to the bar for a cocktail: perhaps the tropical “Aloha Mr. Hand” or the “Pretty in Pink Grapefruit” with vodka, apricot, Peychaud's, citrus, and pink grapefruit. Or, test out your pipes in one of the bar’s several private karaoke rooms, hidden within a faux bank of lockers. They are all equipped with plenty of 80s hits. Those feeling peckish can spring for a retro lunchbox stuffed with snacks. Ours came with an apple, Twinkie, and a sandwich from Grand Central Market’s PBJ.LA made with salted pecan butter and apple jam. Also: a “Capri-Fun” that was, you guessed it, a Capri-Sun injected with rum.
It’s also during this time that you’ll get your first introduction to the show’s six characters, five of whom make up the tropes of The Breakfast Club (and most horror movies). In this production, they call them The Princess (Parissa Kos), The Jock (Patrick Ortiz), The Geek (Kyle Sherman), The Basketcase (Emily Lopez), and The Rebel (James Boyd). Forced to oversee the ragtag bunch is the last character, The Principal (Doug Kreeger). (Note that some of these roles may be performed by others at future showings.)
The group meanders through the audience, occasionally stopping to interact. The Rebel stomps angrily across the empty chairs, the Basketcase dumps her book bag out on a table and frantically looks through its contents, the Principal asks about the audience’s school spirit levels while keeping a suspicious eye on The Rebel.
The show truly begins when the band — Joel Gottschalk (bass), Emily Rosenfield (guitar), Tom Zmuda (sax), Greg Sadler (drums), Jared Stein (keys) — launches into the track that would signify it’s now the 1980s in any establishing shot: Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
The ensuing 90-minute show sees the ensemble run through arrangements of about 20 popular rock, pop, and new wave hits interspersed with vignettes from several films. The story they weave is a familiar one of first loves and first heartbreaks, with all the raunchy humor one would expect from the decade. While some will find that the references do not hold up (like, perhaps, the ‘weird science’ of crafting a human woman using your computer?), they are accurate to the films they’re culled from. You don’t necessarily have to have seen all the films referenced — which includes St. Elmo’s Fire, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Say Anything — though it helps if you know the tunes. None of them are deep cuts. Think along the lines of “Rebel Yell,” “I Melt With You,” “In Your Eyes,” and “Young Americans.” And if you’re wondering why “Young Americans,” which came out in the 70s, is performed, look no further than the soundtrack to Sixteen Candles.
The strengths of The Brat Pack fall on the cast and direction. Every singer is a powerhouse and each excels at the comedy they’re asked to perform. They also make excellent use of the space, writhing down the surface of the bar, swinging from beams, slinking through the audience, and taking advantage of the bar—and its guns and wells—itself. It doesn’t hurt that there is more to the space than meets the eye, including some surprises that allow the club to shift from bar to venue at will.
This is why it’s natural for a show like For the Record to collaborate with The Houston Brothers, whose bars come with their own stories and themes, each conducive to mixing theater and nightclub vibes. If it’s in the budget, creators would do well to find venues that similarly lend themselves to immersive pieces. And if not, creators can still take inspiration from the way even a bar can become a set piece, if you’re clever.
All in all, neither The Brat Pack nor its subject matter are particularly deep; it certainly lacks the gravitas of the Scorsese oeuvre. But if you don’t end the night singing “I say la, la, la, la, la” with your fellow audience members, I’d be surprised.
For the Record: The Brat Pack runs Thursday-Sunday through June 9 at Break Room 86, located at The LINE Hotel in Koreatown, 3315 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets are $86 for general admission or $19.86 for standing room only tickets. 21+, 80s attire encouraged.
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