by Tom Holehan

New musicals are in short supply on Broadway this season but, in our own backyard, two relatively new musicals are being produced at venues in East Haddam and Bridgeport. It’s doubtful either of these shows will find its way to the Big Apple any time soon, but local theatergoers could find worse ways to kill a few hours.

Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre has followed their terrific Beatles showcase, “She Loves You!”, with the music revue, “8-Track: The Sounds of the 70’s”. Produced on the cheap with no set and utilizing recorded music instead of a live orchestra (somewhat heretical at the Cabaret it must be noted), “8-Track” is still worth a visit. With a quartet of very strong singers and a song list that is sure to be nostalgic for anyone who still has a polyester suit and platform shoes in their closet, this no-frills entertainment provides non-stop nostalgia.

Conceived and slickly directed by Rick Seeber, “8-Track” recalls the popular “Decades Shows” that former Cabaret producer Claude McNeil used to produce in the early 1980s. There is no plot, no attempt at theme or storytelling here – just one great (or cheesy) ditty after another sung by two men and two women who know how to sell a song and conjure up fond memories in the process. They also – thankfully – don’t take too much of it very seriously. How could they when such songs as “Feelings”, “You Light Up My Life” and “Convoy” are included in the mix?

The singers are all wonderful but New Haven native Teddy Brown is a standout from the moment he wanders on stage carrying a pet rock and warbling Gilbert O’Sullivan’s woeful “Alone Again, Naturally”. He’s priceless. But Denise Estrada, Nik Rocklin and Liana Young are no slouches either and perform a slew of dead-on impersonations from Helen Ready and Roberta Flack to Three Dog Night, The Bee Gees, Barry Manilow and – God help us – KC and the Sunshine Band. Barbara Wolfe’s costumes are horrifyingly on target and Hugh Hallinan’s creative lighting is always a plus to any Cabaret production. Put your brain on hold and go.

“8-Track” continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport through May 25. For tickets call 203.576.1636 or visit the Cabaret website at www.downtowncabaret.org.

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