The 80's were a time of big hair, crazy fashion trends, and rock 'n' roll. Milwaukee can relive all that was the 80's in the comical 80's rock 'n' roll sing-a-long experience, Powerballadz (http://powerballadztour.com). The show is an 80's rock concert combined with theatrical comedy and gameshow elements and will be coming to The Marcus Center's Vogel Hall on Sept. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Yesterday, Aug. 26, Powerballadz co-creator, Mike Todaro, shared the process of forming the production and how it has developed since its beginning.
Powerballadz originated when Todaro and his writing partner decided to write a "giant arena rock cabaret show that encompassed the soundtrack of [their] lives" and, one night and a case of Miller High Life later, a show was made. There have since been revisions, additions, and omissions to the original script, but the core remains the same. The show centers around two best friends and their shared experiences in 80's rock music, causing some to compare Powerballadz to the likes of "Wayne's World".
The duo built the set list on 80's rock power ballads associated with specific moments of teen pain and angst that represent the time period in an iconic way. Although the vast majority of the music is from the 80's, there is a bit of overlap for certain songs that simply couldn't be left out. Todaro elaborated on this overlap saying,
In order to grasp the power ballad and it's scientific place in rock history, you can't not acknowledge Aerosmith with "Dream On" from 1973 and then one of the great ones of the modern area is Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love", which is 1991.
Todaro went on to add that one of the most trying challenges of writing Powerballadz was creating the set list, since everyone has a different idea of what should be included and there can only be so many songs in a 90-minute show.
We had a very strict criteria for what made a power ballad and we stuck to that. We don't have every single song that we wanted in there individually but the set list represents what we feel are the true greatest power ballad rock songs of our time.
But Powerballadz is not to be confused with an 80's cover band. Todaro often finds people with this misconception, though he's made a point of building gameshow and comical elements around the music, so as to include and a wider audience and create a one-of-a-kind experience for everyone. Todaro added that the gameshow elements (including audience participation and a t-shirt cannon) came from wanting the shared experience of reliving teenage years.When describing the theatrical blend he's created in Powerballadz and how he hopes audience members respond, Todaro said,
Everybody remembers where they were when they heard these songs so it's almost like starting a conversation mid-sentence because everybody already brings their own stuff to the table. So we want to be really careful to let people enjoy it on that level, but we also wanted to give them something that was going to be enjoyable and that was going to be unlike anything they've ever seen before because the people that come in and think it's just a cover band are just blown away and the people that come in and think it's some kind of musical are just blown away.
The success of Powerballadz in moving from Minnesota to Off-Broadway to the current tour certainly suggests that Todaro succeeded in blowing audiences away. The strong support when the show opened in Minnesota led to the Off-Broadway performances in New York, where some script changes were made. The current touring version of Powerballadz, however, has returned to the original script.
Though Powerballadz is strongly centered around an 80's rock ballad theme, Todaro states that it is accessible for everybody.
We have such a great band and great players so we've had people of all ages that have enjoyed the show whether they be older people that remember their kids listening to it or younger people that know this music because of Guitar Hero. But everybody enjoys this show... we make sure that it's a lot of modern references a lot of 80's references. We want it to be accessible to every single person as it possibly can be. But you have an extra special experience if you did grow up during this era.
Powerballadz will take place in The Marcus Center's Vogel Hall on Sept. 20 and 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 and are available at the Marcus Center Box Office (929 N. Water St.), by calling (414)273-7206, or online at http://Ticketmaster.com. For more information, please visit http://www.powerballadztour.com.
We set out to take a giant arena rock show of the 80's that would play the metronome or that would play the big stadiums and shove it into a small theater space.. and we have the fog and the moving lights and everything, but it's sort of like sitting front row in a giant, awesome concert and laughing a lot.