While Chloe Pesso, age 11, had heard of Madonna, she'd never actually heard one of her songs.
Not until September, when she started rehearsing for "A Tribute to the '80s," the Vail Performing Arts Academy show taking place at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek Saturday and Sunday. Now Pesso, a Vail Mountain School 6th grader, knows the words to "Material Girl" by heart since she's singing it solo in the show. Sixty-five local students, ages 8 to 18, take part in the musical revue.
But it's the show's opening song, Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" that really appeals to Pesso, though.
"That's my favorite," she said. "It's really fun and energetic. I first heard it in the movie 'Rock of Ages.'"
Movies such as that one, as well as old MTV music videos, have helped familiarize the kids with the songs they'll belt out this weekend. Alex Mauro, a Vail Mountain School 8th grader, has been looking at both music videos and live performances on YouTube "to get a taste of it," he said. Along with a handful of numbers he'll sing with his cast mates, Mauro will perform a solo of "Tainted Love," by the band Soft Cell.
"I'd listened to it on the radio before," Mauro said, "but I never really knew what it was."
Performing at the Vilar Center in Beaver Creek is always a highlight for Mauro, who has been performing in Vail Performing Arts Academy shows for seven years.
"It's awesome to be in the Vilar," he said. "People of the likes of Ringo Starr have played there, so it's awesome."
A musical history lesson
Perhaps because of the '80s fashion revival happening now, the kids nailed it when it came time to come up with the basis for their costumes. Pesso will don neon pink leggings with leg warmers, a blue sparkly shirt and a big silver bow in her hair for the show, she said.
"We ask them to come up with their own costume pieces, then we add to them," said Annah Scully, the show's executive producer. "They know what the '80s look like. They seem to have no problem relating to that, the look and the music."
As with many of the shows the academy puts on, "A Tribute to the '80s" has taught the kids a fair amount about an era that took place 20 years before some of them were even born.
"It's a lesson in music and historically, the kids learn what people were listening to in all different eras," Scully said.
Along with Madonna and Jett, the music for the show encompasses plenty of what the '80s had to offer. You'll hear Foreigner, Cyndi Lauper, Paula Abdul and Survivor, among many more.
"This show is mostly just production numbers, one right after another," Scully said. "They're acting while dancing and singing. There's no lull, it keeps the energy going."
"Just the energy of this show is great," Mauro said. "All of the songs are catchy and everyone has heard them before. Even if you're my age or younger, you've definitely heard 'I Love Rock and Roll' before. Everyone will love it and will like our interpretation of the songs, I think."
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.