BWW Review: THE SOUNDS OF THE SEVENTIES at Downtown Cabaret Theatre
On Friday, August 9, I had the pleasure of seeing the inaugural production of Downtown Cabaret Theatre's Decades in Concert series, which is THE SOUNDS OF THE SEVENTIES. This approximate two hour performance includes nearly fifty different songs, performed by four extremely talented cast members. Mikayla Petrilla, Saige Bryan, Robert Peterpaul, and Everton Ricketts all have incredible voices, strong stage presences, tremendous acting skills, tight stage chemistry with each other, and a positive attitude of genuinely enjoying their performance, radiating positive energy all throughout this packed house! The choreography by Jennifer Kaye helps highlight the excellent dancing and synchronization skills from this first rate cast.
There are no spoken lines or dramatic story within this concert; rather it is song after song skillfully performed. Writer Phill Hill chose predominantly mainstream American 1970s chart-topping songs for this show. These choices are perfect for highlighting this stellar cast's talents. Some numbers are performed together by all four cast members, while others showcase just one cast member, or two. Every decision works out smoothly, in terms of who sings which songs, and in which parts of the shared songs any given individual takes the lead. With the exception of two different numbers, I knew all the songs that were performed, this cast doing justice to every one of them. The songs are not performed in sequence of release date within the seventies, but are rather more randomly interspersed, with the exception of a huge montage of disco songs at the very end.
The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Commodores, Elton John, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Supertramp, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, the New Seekers, Bill Withers, Cat Stevens, Three Dog Night, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Carole King, Debby Boone, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Gloria Gaynor, Kool & the Gang, The Bee Gees, the Village People, the Trammps, and K.C. & the Sunshine Band are among the artists whose music is performed. The music genres are mostly easy listening, adult contemporary, Motown, and disco, with Edwin Starr's "War" being the heaviest of the songs performed.
There are numerous costume changes, reflecting different styles from the 1970s. The projection screens in the back of the stage show various television or movie segments from the 1970s, keeping the audience entertained during the off-stage costume changes. History bits such as Richard Nixon's resignation and a feminist argument with Hugh Hefner are also projected on the screens.
Beyond the projected film segments, younger audiences are given a sense of the political and social forces active in the 1970s, just through the lyrics of the selected songs, choices I found to be very fascinating and eye opening in that many of these songs had influential social and political messages on mainstream American culture, impacting social and political issues that are still prevalent today. It was good for me to be exposed to this diversity of 1970s music, and the messages within, beyond my favorite songs of the time like "Let It Be," and "American Pie" (neither appearing in this show) or favorite artists of the time like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Who, Queen, Jethro Tull, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Ramones, Rush, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Boston, Kansas, the Eagles, the Cars, Rod Stewart, and Elvis Presley, none of which have songs in this show. I am grateful for this show expanding my horizons of awareness as to what messages mainstream America was getting through music at the time, and how mainstream America recalls the 1970s decade of music.
I highly recommend THE SOUNDS OF THE SEVENTIES. While this preview of THE SOUNDS OF THE SEVENTIES only runs during this weekend (August 9 through August 11), this production is scheduled to make its official run at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, in Bridgeport, CT from January 31, 2020 through February 16, 2020. For times and tickets, please go to Tickets. It is clear based on the overwhelmingly positive reaction all throughout the show, from the packed house crowd, that my tremendous enjoyment of this show is a view that is largely shared. Even though it is months away, I would recommend purchasing tickets as soon as possible, while they are still available.