Back in time with ‘The Class of 70 Something’
You got a pair of bell bottoms? A tie-dyed T-shirt? Anything with a peace symbol?
If so, you have the perfect attire for an evening at Rivertown Theaters for Performing Arts in Kenner, where director Gary Rucker is staging one of the funniest, most entertaining — and yes, even grooviest — local musicals of all time, “The Class of 70 Something.”
Opening Friday at 8 p.m., the revue takes audiences on a trip back in time to the so-called decade from hell when disco ruled the charts and giant-hoop earrings, bell-bottoms and platform shoes were the stuff of fashion.
“It’s a celebration of the ’70s — the good stuff and the stuff we all want to forget,” Rucker said. “There’s a TV section, a section with jingles and commercials, and some local stuff. It’s a lot of fun.”
Created by local producer Carl Walker, whom Rucker works with in the theater department at Tulane University, “The Class of 70 Something” opened to rave reviews in 1996, capturing the Big Easy Entertainment Award for Best Musical.
Rucker remembers seeing that production at the Contemporary Arts Center and knew he wanted to revive it when he and his business partner Kelly Fouchi started their own theater company, Theatre 13, in 2009.
He said Walker was more than receptive to its revival, going so far as to tell Rucker to tweak it as he saw fit.
“Carl Walker was extremely gracious,” Rucker said. “He said, ‘Here’s the framework. Use it or don’t. Tailor it the way you want. Feel free to mess with it.’
“One thing we tried to do was make it a little more universal. We are so far away from the ’70s. In the original, there was a huge women’s lib section that I wasn’t crazy about, so we took it out and put in a rock section. We followed his basic outline and kept some of the same things — songs such as “Kung Fu Fighting.”
The 12-member cast of “The Class of 70 Something” features Abby Murrell, Janie Heck, Rachel deJong, Elyse McDaniel, Ashley Rose Butler, Katie Lynn Cotaya, Jeff Springman, Kyle Aucoin, Aaron Lind, Christopher Abide, Jermaine Keelen and Darren Hayes.
“My entire cast was born after the ’70s,” Rucker said, “and it’s been fun watching them learn about the decade that I came from, finding out what makes some of these songs so wonderful and iconic.”
The show includes a tribute to the disco funk group K.C. and the Sunshine Band as well as the music of Michael Jackson, Elton John and Cher. There is an “American Pie” section as well as a “Jukebox from Hell” number featuring the songs “you love to hate.” Think “Muskrat Love” by The Captain and Tennile.
The television section spoofs such shows as “Love Boat,” “Three’s Company,” “Laverne and Shirley” and “The Jeffersons,” and the jingle section includes such products as Stridex, Levi’s and Seafood City.
Rucker said he is delighted with the response he has received since announcing the lineup of shows last spring. Among those who have reserved tickets are high school reunion groups intent on reliving the nostalgia of their adolescence.
Audience members are encouraged to dress in ’70s attire, Rucker said, adding that there will be a costume contest with prizes for each of the nine performances.
Besides Rucker, the production team includes musical director Tammy Mansfield, choreographer Heidi Malnar, costume designer Linda Fried, technical director Eric Porter and stage manager Christy Combel.
Barri Bronston is a contributing writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.