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THEATER REVIEW: “miXtape: A Musical Journey Through The ’80s” offers nostalgic ride

SAN DIEGO -- Cast your mind back to the ’80s, when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviets “the evil empire” and signed the largest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history, Michael Jackson topped the charts and everybody made quaint collections of musical favorites on cassettes called mixtapes.

That’s the era of Generation X (here defined as those born between 1961 and 1981), the gang that followed the Boomers, who are already the subject of more than one musical.

Lamb’s Players resident artists Colleen Kollar Smith and Jon Lorenz give Gen X its due with the world premiere of their musical “miXtape: A Musical Journey Through The ’80s,” playing through Sept. 26 at the theater’s downtown San Diego location.

Kerry Meads directs a fine ensemble of Louis Pardo, Season Marshall Duffy, Joy Yandell, Marci Anne Wuebben, Lance Arthur Smith, Leonard Patton, Spencer Rowe and Michelle Pereira.

Gen Xers grew up on Sesame Street (“Everything I know I learned from a bird and a grouch”) and the Smurfs (“I saw the Smurfs for what they were – socialists”).

It was a time “when everyone was working out – or dressing like they were,” in lycra and leg warmers. Richard Simmons shows up (Spencer Rowe in a curly fright wig); so does Smith as Patrick Swayze doing some “Dirty Dancing” moves.

And don’t forget the girls with all that hair. Come to think of it, the wigs deserve their own bow in this show.

Smith and Lorenz have cleverly arranged the songs topically – there are sections about movies (“Top Gun,” “Risky Business,” “Ghostbusters” among them) and TV shows (“Smurfs,” Cosby, “Hill Street Blues”) along with songs about relationships and the search for meaning (“Sweet Dreams,” “Mad World,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”).

But it’s the fab treatment of B-52’s “Love Shack” that brings down the house. I’ll leave it to you to find out why.

Gen X isn’t my decade, but “miXtape,” boasting a fine cast and a terrific five-man combo, is a great ride for those with ’80s nostalgia.

The details

“miXtape” plays through Sept. 26 at Lamb’s Players Theatre’s Horton Grand Theatre location, 444 Fourth Ave.

Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 p.m.

For tickets. call (619) 437-6000 or visit www.lambsplayers.org.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.