Sherman, set the wayback machine to 40 years ago. We are headed back in time for a 90-minute dose of nostalgia called “8-Track: The Sounds of the ‘70s,” a benign little musical revue at the Plaza Theatre.
While it is unclear why one would want to return, however briefly, to the era of Vietnam, ostentatious outfits and the rise of disco, the Manalapan stage company has mounted a breezy show featuring the songs you probably have at the bottom of your record stack and the wardrobe from the back of your closet.
If, like the Plaza’s Baby Boomer target audience, you were around during the ‘70s, songs like “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Everything is Beautiful,” “Afternoon Delight,” “Car Wash,” “This Is My Song” and “I Write the Songs” are probably part of the soundtrack of your life.
And if you threw away all of your vinyl LPs or sold them on eBay, one way to recall those songs is by succumbing to this aural flashback. No, the ‘70s were not a banner decade for music, but there are enough memorable tunes to fill the brief evening and get an audience swaying and clapping along.
Unlike most of the revues that the Plaza has assembled from scratch, “8-Track” comes from a California licensing company and was conceived by Rick Seeber. The odd thing is there is so little concept to the show, a string of songs that are occasionally grouped thematically and rarely if ever staged for theatrical impact.
There is an anti-war segment (“War (What Is It Good For?)”), a sequence on sexual liberation (“I Want to Make It With You,” “Lady Marmalade”) and a disco medley (“Stayin’ Alive,” “I Will Survive,” “Y.M.C.A”). But for the most part, the numbers arrive in no discernible order or with any dramatic context. Many of the songs are still enjoyable to encounter, even if this is a lazy way to construct a revue.
With some 50 musical numbers, one could quibble over the iconic songs and artists from the era that did not make the cut on the show’s play list. Chances are Seeber ran into performance rights and royalties issues. Still, one could hardly represent the decade well without any Carole King, Burt Bacharach or Michael Jackson, don’t you think?
Fortunately, director-choreographer Kevin Black has a quartet of hard-working, perky singers with absolutely no shame about being seen in public wearing day-glo colors, bell bottoms, platform shoes, leisure suits and other fashion faux pas.
Bryan Demond Williams and Mimi Jimenez have the stronger singing voices, as he demonstrates on “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and she proves with a gospel lift to “You Light Up My Life.” Flower child Leah Sessa handles “Don’t Cry Out Loud” with histrionic flair and Danny O’Connor has a good time with numbers like the bouncy “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.”
Not wanting costume designer Peter Lovello to have the monopoly on kitsch, scenic designer Michael McClain contributes a unit set of hexagonal blocks and a curtain of Mylar strips that brings to mind a cheap game show.
If you were a music fan in the ‘70s, chances are that “8 Track” will bring you some enjoyment. The chances are just as good, though, that you will have a few ideas for ways a show on this decade could be improved.
8-TRACK: THE SOUNDS OF THE ‘70s
Where: The Plaza Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan.
When: Through July 7.
Tickets: $45. Call: 561-588-1820.
The verdict: A lazy, but energetically performed revue that looks back on the ‘70s, in a nostalgic vein for its music and fashions.