Reviewed by Stephanie Johnson
Far-out, man! … the 70s are back in full swing in the latest Blackwood Players’ production. Tank tops, leotards and bell-bottom trousers are the fashion and the music is full on 70s – rock and disco.
Local playwright and director Rob Parnell has taken a pivotal time period – just before and after the death of the King of Rock n Roll – and given it an Australian flavour.
Kool Kafe is established in country Victoria, but it is about to be ousted by a new and upcoming Pizza place. Conflict threatens and a dance-off is called for to resolve the differences – Kool Kafe’s disco divas vs the Pizza bar’s rock n rollers.
Many young people may have been home watching burgeoning television series such as M.A.S.H., but Parnell’s cast are hanging out at the local cafes and expressing themselves through music.
Darling (Vanessa Schar) is awaiting exam results and the opportunity to leave her small home-town and head for the city lights. Schar is excellent as the restless Darling (Dars). Her role is pivotal and this talented young woman ably communicates her thoughts and feelings, particularly in numbers such as Killing Me Softly.
Kathryn Driver is also excellent as her friend, Kim. Driver gives Kim “Attitude” with a capital “A” and has fun in her role. She is also wonderful in the more serious moments such as singing Eric Carmen’s All By Myself. Driver is well teamed with James Barbary as Derek. Barbary ramps up the pace of this show each time he steps on stage.
Rosie Read is strong as Aunt Ruby, who is battling to keep the Kool Kafe open as the new fashion of pizza and disco threatens to sweep through the town.
Ashlee Lowe is suitably sultry and slightly seedy as Suzy; Zac Vasiliou is an energetic Willie and Danyon Crafts a lot of fun as Benjamin.
All perform proficiently on a well-designed set and need only step up the energy and the pace in the first half.
Nevertheless they do well with an under-cooked script. It is the music that is the feature of this show. Kool Kafe is more like a showcase of 24 70s songs with a loose story holding it together. Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music, Hues Corporations’ Rock the Boat and Rose Royce’s Car Wash are just a few of the highlights.
It is 1977 and not one ABBA song is among those featured, but there are plenty of others that pay tribute to the 70s musical era.