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bergenPAC Takes You Back to the Eighties

bergenPAC Takes You Back to the Eighties

“Eighties… I’m living in the eighties” —Killing Joke

If you remember when the M in MTV stood for music, you’ll love the Back to the Eighties Show with Jessie’s Girl. For the past five years, the show has entertained New York audiences every Saturday night — first at the Canal Room and later at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street where it remains today. The show makes its first appearance at Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) in Englewood, NJ on Friday, July 17.

The Back to the Eighties Show features many of the most popular songs from the decade, along with lead singers in costume who bring artists like Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna to life on stage. It’s a non-stop party that will have the audience singing and dancing in the aisles.

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Jessie’s Girl features three great vocalists: Jenna O’Gara, Chris Hall and Mark Rinzel. The band includes Eric Presti on guitar, Sky on keyboards, Drew Mortali on bass and Michael Maenza on drums.

Due to the show’s popularity, the band often finds ‘80s legends joining them on stage. The list of guest stars includes such names as Bret Michaels of Poison, MC Hammer, Colin Hay from Men at Work, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Taylor Dane and Mike Score from A Flock of Seagulls. Constantine Maroulis, the Tony-nominated star of “Rock of Ages” makes frequent appearances with the band as well.

The show is a celebration of a period of time that changed the music industry. Following the classic rock and pop hits of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the visual component of MTV became an extra element that led many to either love the sounds of the decade or discount the music entirely. It was a time of synthesizers, big hair, and flashy colors — perfect for music videos, but a rather radical change for many artists. Even though some (Billy Joel, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen come to mind) were able to make the jump to videos, many of the biggest artists of the previous decade faded away.  In fact, the very first video ever played on MTV, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, sounded the warning and proved prophetic.

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MTV was unique because it led everyone in the country to be dialed into the same station, similar to how “American Bandstand” helped make stars of artists by bringing them into households in the fifties. With MTV, artists not only had to have catchy songs, but had to look good as well. Madonna and Bon Jovi were two who not only understood the medium but thrived on it. Both have songs among the many show stoppers for Jessie’s Girl.“Everybody gets bitter when the thing they do becomes out of fashion, right?” noted Rinzel who thinks every generation tends to have an awkward relationship with the music that follows. “I mean, jazz guys hated rock and roll when it first came out.”

“Everybody’s always on their feet for ‘Livin’ On A Prayer,’” said Rinzel. “It’s like this joyous, transcendent moment of the show. You can almost see this sense of relief wash over people’s faces when they realize they can just let go and enjoy themselves and the moment. Songs like that are why we don’t get bored doing the show. People respond to the fact that we’re all having a great time on stage. I think you can tell when you’re watching a band and they don’t want to be there. It’s never been like that with us, the more we do the show the more we enjoy it!”

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The current lineup for Jessie’s Girls has done about 300 shows together — from the 500-700 crowd at their regular New York gig to crowds of 1400 or more in performing arts centers around the country. They have performed at a Halloween bash with Jamie Foxx, a private birthday party for Neil Patrick Harris and opened for Smashmouth in Arizona.

Rinzel, who also plays in a Police tribute band, often portrays artists as diverse as Sting, Billy Idol and even Prince in the show.

“Prince is a big one for me,” he explained. “I was ten years old when ‘Purple Rain’ came out, so I remember watching that as a kid and thinking ‘I want to do that.’ This is sort of coming full circle for me. I also love doing AC/DC and the other stuff that’s just silly and fun.

“‘Love Shack’ is always fun; ‘Under Pressure’ is a big highlight for me, being able to do the Freddie Mercury track. Sometimes the funnest parts for me are simply listening to the other singers — hearing Jenna sing, ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ while I’m changing clothes backstage and singing backup is one of the funnest parts of the whole night for me.”

Jessie's Girl with Rob Base at The Canal Room

Jessie's Girl with Rob Base at The Canal Room

While the New York shows attract a younger crowd, Rinzel says the performances in theaters often have seats filled with people who grew up during the ‘80s. People in their thirties and forties who bring their kids to the show, providing an entirely different type of energy to the night.

So, if you still find yourself watching films like “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty In Pink” whenever they’re on television and want your kids to understand why you’re always singing along with these songs, bring them to bergenPAC for the Eighties Show. Who knows, maybe they’ll fall in love with the same music and even start singing along with you.

Back to the Eighties Show with Jessie’s Girl Friday, July 17 at Bergen Performing Arts Center, 30 North Van Brunt Street, Englewood. For more information, visit www.bergenpac.org.

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