By BRIAN BINGAMAN
With apologies to Prince, June 6 we’re gonna party like it’s 1989.
Featuring multiple costume changes and production values like a Broadway show, the seven-piece ‘80s tribute band Jessie’s Girl makes a rare appearance outside the state borders of New York at Sellersville Theater 1894.
From hits by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Cyndi Lauper, to old-school-MTV head-banging anthems from the likes of Bon Jovi, Van Halen and Def Leppard, to slices of new wave by The Police, Erasure and The Buggles, it’s all on this throwback, live concert mix tape.Their unofficial theme song is the official theme song from the movie “The Breakfast Club,” “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds.
Previously known as “Back to the ‘80s,” the band got its start five years ago opening for a Journey tribute band at New York City’s Canal Room. The former owner of that club, Marcus Linial, is Jessie’s Girl’s manager and producer.
“Back to the ‘80s became a staple in New York City,” he said.
They became Jessie’s Girl, as in the Rick Springfield song, two years ago after Back to the ‘80s broke up and auditions were held for new singers.
“There are hundreds of ‘80s cover bands out there, but we wanted to separate ourselves from all the rest. We thought of every song title from the ‘80s — oh god, there were some really silly ones. Jessie’s Girl was something sexy, fun, not so serious,” said Linial, who at age 45, remembers the time period well.
The auditions brought off-Broadway performer Chris Hall, Sting specialist Mark Rinzel (who also excels at singing Prince and Peter Gabriel, according to Linial), and Berklee College of Music graduate Jenna O’Gara into the fold.
Although she was born in 1989, O’Gara has an affinity for ‘80s music because her voice professors frequently referenced the decade’s powerhouse female singers. “And then I would try to copy them,” she said.
“I think it’s important to my performance that I can grasp what made each of them special,” said O’Gara, referencing Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, among others.
The sole girl in Jessie’s Girl, she makes about eight costume changes each show. “I get off stage, change my outfit and change my persona,” O’Gara said.
The guys don’t have it much easier. During Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” “the guys will be wearing choir robes … and one of them will have a solo song right after that. So he has to be wearing his next outfit underneath the choir robe.”
O’Gara’s voice also comes in handy harmonizing on songs that were originally sung by an ultra-high male tenor, such as “We Built This City” by Starship and “Any Way You Want It” by Journey.
The following Jessie’s Girl developed from being booked every single Saturday night in the Big Apple gained them some high-profile fans. They were the band for Neil Patrick Harris’ 40th birthday party. Jamie Foxx hired them for a Halloween party, and sang with them at one point, according to Linial. On May 17 “Dreamgirls” star Jennifer Holliday joined the band on stage. For six weeks, Constantine Maroulis of “American Idol” and the Broadway edition of “Rock of Ages” joined the band.
Although Linial said it would not be happening at the Sellersville show, a growing list of ‘80s hit-makers — among them Bret Michaels (Poison), Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Mike Score (A Flock of Seagulls) and Martin Fry (ABC) — have been known to make surprise onstage appearances at Jessie’s Girl shows.
“They make you drop all your problems. You don’t have to look for a party; the party’s happening,” Linial said.
Get a sample at www.jessiesgirlnyc.com.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Jessie’s Girl “Back to ‘80s Show.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. June 6.
WHERE: Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 W. Temple Ave. and Main Street, Sellersville.
INFO: Call (215) 257-5808 or visit www.st94.com.