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If You Don't Have Fun At Factory Theater's Hey! Dancin!, You Might Be Dead

By Julienne Bilker in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 30, 2010 8:20PM

cast photo courtesy Factory Theater
It's 1986, and "Hey! Dancin!", Chicago's most popular cable-access dance show, is about to tape its last show of the season. Obsessed with two of the show's stars, teenagers Trisha (Catherine Dughi) and Halle (Melissa Nedell) push their way onto the show, determined to hook up with their totally awesome idols. With this plot, Factory Theater’s Hey! Dancin! could easily be a cute one-off joke that fades as quickly as Mia Sara's post-Ferris career - but thanks to the sharp script, committed cast and attention to detail, it's consistently entertaining.

Yes, it feels like this show took the 80s to the storage room at the Mickey Mouse Club, chopped them up with a rusty razorblade and snorted them off a mirror with a $20 bill (actually, maybe just a five spot), but it works because the cast and crew have taken it seriously - not in the grave sense, but in the realistic sense. The characters are stereotypes and parodies, but they're played in earnest, to the max. The show-within-a-show’s cast includes Randy Massingill (Anthony Tournis), the show's older/slightly skeezy Miami Vice-obsessed host; Princess (Dominique Johnson), a disciple in the church of Prince; Doug (Esteban Andrews Cruz), the gay “real dancer” who no one (except himself) seems to realize is gay; Pete (Anderson Lawfer), the unassuming nerd permanently relegated to the background; and of course the show’s starring couple, queen bitch Tanya (Aileen May) and supreme idiot Kenny Kapowski aka "Double K" (Jacob A. Ware). The task of wrangling the group falls to the too-old-for-this-job Stage Manager, Linda (Sara Sevigny) and Station Manager Dennis (Noah Simon), a recovering alcoholic who looks and sounds a bit like Milton from Office Space, seeks companionship in pillows and is trying to steer the show’s sound away from “black music” and toward Bon Jovi (“the baddest cowboy on earth”).

What impressed us most was that whenever we thought we might be done with the show, when we felt things were starting to get tedious, it shook things up. Kirk Pynchon and Mike Beyer’s script is clever on referential, dirty, mildly painful (in a “it’s-so-embarrassing-I-can’t-watch” way) and totally ridiculous levels. Director Sarah Rose Graber has cast the show perfectly and directed with keen specificity, and Pynchon’s choreography is spot-on. There were some trouble spots - cues might be picked up a bit faster, and although her venomous teen diva portrayal is great, we’re a little worried that Aileen May might scream her voice out before the run is over - but these are minor details. Hey! Dancin! is pure fun. Go see for yourself.

[A quick note before we send you to the Factory Theater - this is not an interactive show. The cast obviously appreciates energy and enthusiasm from the audience, but don’t be that guy (or girl) who talks back to the actors while they’re on stage. As the couple we sat behind on Friday so kindly demonstrated, you are probably not as funny as you think you are after several drinks. Yes, you can bring alcohol into the theater, but don’t be a jackass.]

Hey! Dancin! through April 24, Factory Theater at Prop Thtr 3502 N. Elston Ave. Tickets $15-$20.