“8-Track, The Sounds of the ’70s”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
August 5, 2003

There are some of us who lived through the 1970s who not only loved the soundtrack of that era, but also have fond memories of that decade’s music–even schmaltzy numbers such as “You Light Up My Life,” “I’m Not in Love” and, yes, “I Write the Songs.”

So it’s not surprising that Rick Seeber came up with “8-Track, the Sounds of the ’70s.”

What is unfortunate, however, is that the director either had too little time to craft an innovative stage production or just didn’t care enough about the music to attempt doing it justice. The 90-minute production at the Metropolis Theatre in Arlington Heights is less reminiscent of a theatrical production than one of those free shows amusement parks provide for families whose kids are too small to go on all the rides.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the young quartet that sings Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” to a pet rock or dances its way through the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” Are they the most talented dancers? No. Can they sing? Yes. But the majority of the over-30 audience can still remember how the original songs were done. In a word: better.

The likable young performers do their best to look the part. Dressed in brown cords and synthetic shirts, they appear very Brady. But they have to battle sound problems that make them sound as if their voices are being channeled through really bad cell phones.

There’s not much to look at when you get bored with the music. The stage is fairly barren except for the occasional prop (pet rock, CB radio). Apparently, there’s also a plot.

In the production notes, Seeber claims that “the wonderfully diverse songs connect in interesting ways, just as the performers–the seeker, the lover, the blossoming feminist and the young man who isn’t quite sure where he belongs–connect emotionally as they each grow through the decade.”

To be perfectly honest, I’d only have a 50/50 chance of picking out which of the two men is supposed to be the one who doesn’t belong. Selecting the blossoming feminist is easier; most likely it’d be the one who sings Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.” But then again, as a little girl I sang that song, too, and I was too young to even know what feminist meant.

Early on, one of the cast members compares the show to a K-Tel crash course. Unfortunately for them, theatergoers would fare better buying a K-Tel compilation rather than spending their money on this earnest but amateurish production.

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