By David Dixon
Nostalgia is in at the moment. Films, theater, television series, and even certain YouTubers celebrate entertainment from the last few decades.
One man who knows a great deal about retro pop culture is Bankers Hill resident Jon Lorenz. He co-created a hit 1980s musical revue, “miXtape,” with Colleen Kollar Smith for Lamb’s Players Theatre.
They decided to follow up that show with another original tribute, “Pump Up the Volume: A Musical ’90s-Palooza.”
Produced by San Diego Musical Theatre and staged at Horton Grand Theatre, the evening (previews start July 28) will be full of songs from singers and groups such as Whitney Houston, Britney Spears and NSYNC. There are also references to shows like “DuckTales,” “Full House” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
Lorenz (who is also the musical arranger and music director) and Kollar-Smith (she is the director and choreographer) have completely different views on the 1990s. For Lorenz, was more into grunge music, techno music and independent films. During that decade, Kollar-Smith was a bigger fan of hip-hop, boy bands and shows such as “Saved by the Bell.” Both of their interests are highlighted throughout the evening.
A benefit for Lorenz in working at the Horton Grand is the “intimacy” that the theatrical space provides.
“The performers are pretty close up, even in the back row,” he said. “This gives you a chance to be enveloped in the music in a concert-like way, without the risk of hearing loss.”
One visual aspect that Lorenz thinks audiences will appreciate is Michael McKeon’s projections. McKeon’s work aids the audience with understanding the context of certain scenes, and is full of details about the time period.
They needed to drop some material to keep “Pump Up the Volume” at a normal length. “It was hard for me not to have Buffy from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ show up and kick the butt of all the horror movie icons from that time,” he said. “We probably could have had four acts worth of music.”
Another of Lorenz’s talents is that he is a regional performer. However, he doesn’t plan on starring in any future incarnations or versions.
“We’ve skewed a little younger with the ensemble,” he said. “I think I would look like the old dad.”
Although Lorenz won’t appear onstage, he revealed that one of the characters, played by Joshua David Cavanaugh, has dialogue that is similar to his personality.
Lorenz hopes that people that go to the Gaslamp make a night out of being in that part of the city. “Tourists and visitors can see this and get something extra special before going to a club,” he said.
There might be an obvious target demographic, yet Lorenz encourages those that aren’t as wild about the ’90s to give the time capsule a chance. “If you think the ’90s isn’t your bag, I think you’ll discover there’s a lot of things that you’ll connect with,” he said. “There are a lot of songs I wasn’t officially a fan of, that I now have an appreciation for after working with Kollar-Smith.”
Given the family-friendly nature of the piece, Lorenz looks forward to seeing both younger and older generations experiencing the same evening together. “It’s fun getting to be a room with people of different ages who feel a communal connection,” he said. “That was a surprising feeling when ‘miXtape’ was originally produced.”
Even with San Diego Comic-Con International finished, pop culture fever is alive and well in Downtown, thanks to Lorenz. Bring your metaphorical boombox and vintage sunglasses for an event that is sure to be off the hook.
“Pump Up the Volume” plays at Horton Grand Theatre through Sept. 10. For tickets or more information, visit sdmt.org or call 858-560-5740.
—A fan of film and theater from a very young age, David Dixon has written reviews and features for various print and online publications. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.