Every now and then, the Human Race Theatre Company seeks a departure from the compelling, thought-provoking fare they do well in favor of lightweight, audience-friendly entertainment. A perfect example of this type of programming is currently at the Loft Theatre in the form of “8-Track: The Sounds of the 70’s,” a fast-moving, feel-good musical revue incorporating 50 pop/disco classics that defined the decade.
“8-Track,” created in 2001 by Rick Seeber of “Beehive” fame, cannot escape its theatrical karaoke stigma, but is conceptually effective nonetheless in its War and Peace segment that includes “What’s Going On,” “Peace Train,” “War (What Is It Good For?)” and “Taking It To The Streets.” An additional plus is the common thread of love and relationships weaved throughout the revue that provides emotional highs derived from such standards as “You Light Up My Life,” “Just The Way You Are” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” three tunes that received the Grammy for Song of the Year.
Director/music director Scott Stoney’s vibrant, personable and harmonic quartet, flavorfully choreographed by Teressa Wylie McWilliams, colorfully costumed by Janet Powell and attractively presented on Mark Halpin’s sleek set reminiscent of a typical ‘70s variety series, fully adapts to the sentiments in each number. Race favorite J.J. Tiemeyer takes charge at the outset with “Get Ready” and particularly touches the heart with “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Ebony Blake, returning to the Race for the first time since her dazzling performance in “Nefertiti,” delivers a strikingly contemplative take on “’Til You Come Back To Me” and lets loose with fierce sassiness for “Lady Marmalade” and “Car Wash.” Tenor Jonathan Burke, who uses his falsetto impressively for the obligatory “Stayin’ Alive,” offers solid renditions of “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Desperado” in addition to playfully evoking Tony Orlando for “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” Jennifer Wren supplies endearing versions of “I Am Woman” and “We’ve Only Just Begun” and tackles “Don’t Cry Out Loud” with gusto.
Although Seeber oddly overlooked legendary songs from a slew of female icons such as Judy Collins, Crystal Gayle, Janis Ian, Carole King, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt, Diana Ross and Carly Simon, “8-Track” is an upbeat holiday alternative that fulfills nostalgic urges.
“8-Track: Sound of the ‘70s” will continue through Wednesday, December 22 at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. Performances are Wednesday, December 8-Saturday, December 11 and Wednesday, December 15-Saturday, December 18 at 8 p.m., Sunday, December 12 and Sunday, December 19 at 2 p.m., Monday, December 20 and Tuesday, December 21 at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, December 22 at 8 p.m. A special talkback discussion will be held following the Sunday, December 12 performance. Tickets are $18.50-$40. For tickets or more information, call (937) 228-3630 or visit www.humanracetheatre.org