BWW Review: 8-TRACK THE SOUNDS OF THE 70S at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, January 17, I had the pleasure of seeing 8-TRACK THE SOUNDS OF THE 70S at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT. This new musical conceived by Rick Seeber constitutes performances of mainstream United States chart-topping songs from the 1970s. Incredibly talented singers Jason Beaulieu, Dan Frye, Emily Gray, and Erica Whitfield have excellent stage chemistry and vocal harmony with each other in this musical event under the wonderful direction of Kris McMurray.
The extremely talented Sunshine Band, visibly stationed off-stage, left of stage left, tremendously enhances the show as it accompanies the singers. Musical Director TJ Thompson leads this band on keyboard, with Jamie Sherwood on guitar, Tim Urso on percussion, and Dan Kaye on bass. The band kicks in the second act with a rousing instrumental rendition of "Your Momma Don't Dance," energizes the audience again, during a costume change, with a captivating instrumental rendition of "Long Train Running," and keeps it exciting after the show with a spirited instrumental rendition of "Takin' Care of Business."
What do celebrities think of this show and the music of the 1970s? Tony Orlando said, "..it's the best decade of all.." He specifically endorses this show, as does actor Barry Williams, who is most well-known as Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch.
The show is not the type of jukebox musical that builds a story around previously existing songs, nor is it the type of show that looks to tell history through the music of its time. Rather, it is strictly the music, some songs performed in their entirety, others with only one line. Some songs are combined in medleys, while others are presented alone. Some are solos, others duets, trios, and quartets. Even though there is no specific storyline, there is still plenty of first-rate acting, in accordance with the feelings and situations of the songs. All four cast members provide excellent vocals and awareness of the feeling behind their songs.
What can we say about the role of the 1970s in music history? The decade that brought us "Stairway to Heaven," "Freebird," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Hotel California," "Won't Get Fooled Again," Let It Be," "Aqualung," "American Pie," "Layla," "Dream On," "Piano Man," "You're In My Heart," "Comfortably Numb," and the emergence of Van Halen and the Ramones is certainly worthy of being remembered as a positive time in music history!
Historically, rock n' roll dominated the mainstream music charts from the mid-1950s, through the 1960s, with diverse sounds, yet all under the rock n' roll umbrella. The 1970s arrived with some songs like "Burning Love," "Travelin' Band," "Peace Frog," and "Katmandu" that retained the traditional rock sound of the 1950s and 1960s, but early on, in the 1970s, another dynamic was in place. Rock n' roll, at least as it was traditionally understood, went primarily underground, as the mainstream chart-topping sound underwent what David Bowie referred to as "ch-ch-ch-changes." 8 TRACK THE SOUNDS OF THE 70S primarily reflects the new sounds that dominated the United States mainstream music charts in the 1970s, the sounds of easy listening, slow Motown, and eventually disco. Jason Beaulieu, Dan Frye, Emily Gray, and Erica Whitfield do an amazing job with those mainstream 1970s sounds, yielding extremely positive reactions from the audience.
For rock fans, the show contains some great music made famous by Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul Simon, the Eagles, Joe Cocker, Cat Stevens, Three Dog Night, Steam, Edwin Starr, and the Doobie Brothers. We also get some brief measures from Queen and Don McLean. My favorite performance in Act 1 is the high energy group number "Get Ready," reflecting the Rare Earth cover of this 1960s Temptations classic that was written by Smokey Robinson. My favorite in Act 2 is "Convoy," a song I don't recall ever hearing before in my life, yet instantly liked. It has a Johnny Cash feel to it, but according to my research after the show, it is originally by someone who goes by the stage name of CW McCall.
I highly recommend 8-TRACK THE SOUNDS OF THE 70S which is scheduled to continue to run at the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin, CT, every Friday and Saturday night, at 8:00 PM, through February 8, 2020. If the roads are open, the theatre is open! For tickets, please call the boix office at 860-829-1248.