Human Race’s 8-Track: Review
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik
It’s may seem easy to pish-posh the idea of history repeating itself. After all, who wears white disco suits anymore? [Note: Your eccentric Uncle Leroy doesn't count.]
But take a trip back to the 1970s and, platform shoes aside, you’ll find several very relevant themes: War. Relationship woes. People fighting for peace. Young adults seeking direction in life.
Sounds familiar, huh?
It’s a sentiment that’s hard to ignore when taking in the Human Race Theatre Company’s latest show, “8-Track: The Sounds of the ‘70s.” Jam-packed with not only a completely stellar cast, but all the boogie-worthy tunes a flower child could want, the show will run now through Dec. 22 at The Loft Theatre.
“It feels wonderful to sing these songs with honesty and not to have to ‘poke fun’ at them,” said Ebony Blake, one of the performers in the show. “Our director, Scott Stoney, made a great point [when he said], ‘We did the same things you guys do today – the wrapping was different, but our issues remain the same.’ I agree with him wholeheartedly.”
The show kicks off with an introduction by the performers and from there on out, there’s not a quiet moment in the house. The music list is seemingly endless, however. A few of the songs include, “I Will Survive,” “The Peace Train,” “YMCA,” “Your Song,” “Just the Way You Are,” “I Write the Songs,” and, of course, no show fit for the ‘70s would be complete without, “Stayin’ Alive.”
“I have a great time every night,” Stoney said. “My cast — Ebony Blake, Jonathan Burke, J.J. Tiemeyer and Jennifer Wren – are all so talented, and for them, the show is non-stop singing and dancing.”
And it kind of feels that way for the audience too. Sure, the crowd is not performing their disco butts off, but for each one of them, there is a moment in the show where he or she is singing right along with the actors, dancing, laughing at the familiarity of the show’s themes, or clapping along with the music.
“During the holidays, a lot of different emotions come up that, throughout the year, people are able to shelve away,” Blake said. “A feel-good, jam-in-your-seat kind of show [like “8-Track”] can help to alleviate those symptoms one might be feeling –clapping, standing up or dancing in your seat is always appropriate and appreciated.”
That is, of course, if you can resist the groove and manage to stay in your seat. (Chances are, the rhythm will get the best of you.)
“I had a gentleman approach me last night and tell me he felt ‘uplifted,’” Tiemeyer said. “That, to me, was probably the ultimate reaction to the performance. It is true this isn’t ‘conventional’ holiday entertainment. But if it can serve a similar purpose to the vast number of those who experience it, then I’ll have considered it a mighty success.”
“Uplifted” is an understatement. It is a truly joyful experience not only to watch “8-Track,” but to feel a part of it. No matter a viewer’s age, the energy that beams from each one of the performers, the passion they put behind each song – it’s infectious.
“As a singer, it’s easy to love the music of the ‘70s because so many of the songs of the era were lyric-driven or story-telling pieces [unlike the current popular music which seems to be beat or sound based; particularly hip hop and electronica],” Wren said. ”When you have such great words to hook into, appreciating the era’s musical voice is easy.”
While Wren’s and the other actor’s musical talent is apparent throughout the show, another fun aspect of “8-Track” is – you guessed it – the costumes. Between wig changes and flashy outfits, including everything from sequins, to Pucci print, to bell bottoms, the cast’s wardrobe covers the complete line of fashion that wove its way into the ‘70s.
The show wraps up with a “Disco” and “Dim the Lights” section that includes a seven-minute medley of 12 popular disco songs. This is the part of the show where, if toes weren’t already tapping, people are bound to feel the urge to move. Children are clapping along and watching with enthusiasm spread across their faces, and even the most-reserved of adults can’t help but throw their arms up for “YMCA”.
“I love that part of the show because the audience has so much fun during it,” Burke said. “You can feel their anticipation and excitement of what song is coming up.”
And for those who want to break loose, there’s a chance for audience participation before the final curtain.
Here’s a hint: Bring your dancing shoes.
For tickets, call (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or visit www.humanracetheatre.org.