Monday, May 4, 2009

Poseidon: An Upside Down Musical

Disappointed that Avenue Q closed in Cincinnati this weekend? I am, too. It was an excellent romp of blasphemous and potty-mouth puppets that you should have seen. Many thanks to the Cincinnati Movie Bears and their fearless leader, Brian, aka @cincycub, for putting our little outing together this weekend that included AveQ and then the most heavenly food at Nicholson's Pub downtown. Followed, of course, by a fabulous evening at the stop) aids fundraiser at Below Zero, where I drank too much but did not make too many PLC's (poor life choices). Thanks be to the goddess, for that.

However, if you missed Avenue Q, do not fret, there is another equally fabulous, tragically campy, utterly laughable musical going on here in the 'Nati that you would be sore to miss -- Poseidon: An Upside Down Musical, as brought to you by Falcon Theatre (636 Monmouth in Newport). 

I have only been to the small Falcon Theatre once before -- to see their production of Hamlet (my review here). I enjoy Shakespeare, and it was strong work by a community theatre to put it on and do a decent job of it. Regardless, I was not expecting much from Poseidon. I have worked in community theatres before and, undoubtedly, musicals were the bane of our existence. It's hard to find good singer/actors who will work for free... and there is an endless parade of details that are usually dealt with poorly or overlooked completely. The production of Poseidon has a lot of these problems, but it more than makes up for it with fun and strong cast who never forgot the joke.

Poseidon is based off of the 1970s classic, The Poseidon Adventure, which I have never seen. I have caught parts of the more recent remake on cable TV, but apparently it's about a big boat that capsizes and a daring cast have to escape through the bottom of the ship. The original 1972 movie posters bost: Who will survive -- in one of the greatest escape adventures ever! I have no idea how closely they kept to the storyline, but it doesn't matter as 99% of the jokes stand alone without prior knowledge of what's to happen (at Below Zero last night, the Bears and I compared notes and the play, apparently it sticks pretty close to the story). 

There is no real "lead;" rather, each role -- even the minor ones -- has their moments in the sun. There is a central cast  of ten who, more often then not, work together on stage beautifully. Ten people on stage would usually lead to upstaging and distracting action, but not during this performance. Undoubtedly, though, Joe Stollenwerk -- who plays Belle Rosen (Shelly Winters in the 1972 movie) -- stole the show. It's easy to assume that sticking a fat guy in a dress with a hackneyed old Jewish woman accent would be funny without trying, but Stollenwerk played it off brilliantly ... again, never forgetting the joke. Marypat Carlettii as Linda Rogo (Stella Stevens in the original) played her part with brilliance. Again, it would been easy to write off a former hooker turned leacherous drunky wife of a cop, but Carletti plays it on point. (I am dying to work her song about panties into a Kristy performance.) I found myself watching Stollenwerk and Carletti while others were acting because their reactions were, sometimes, funnier than the joke. 

Sean Mize as Acres, also, deserves acclaim for his part as the flamboyant waiter desperately trying to get Mike Rogo's (played by David Radtke) shirt off, as does Chuck Knippen (especially in his role as the mildly creepy, doll loving, socially inept Jim in the secondary story of "Poseidon-ites" watching the movie) , Burgess Boyd (for all of her sharp-tongued fierceness), and DeAndre Smith (again, in his role as a cross-dressing Poseidon-ite). And, finally, Donnie McGovern's role as the not-so-sexually confused 11-year-old Robin Shelby had his moments of hilarity. 

I just talked up well over half the cast, but that's not to say the remainders were a waste. Every single cast member had amazingly memorable moments, but I simply cannot recount the entire show to you in this posting. They were having fun, and it was obvious and it translated into a rowdy good time for the audience. The cast even adopted an audience member who received a lap dance from Carletti and then, later, was pulled onto stage in a dance number. The poor guy was an instant superstar, but the cast's interactions with him tell us that the Falcon Theatre cares deeply about their audience.

All of the wonderment aside, the show lacked a few key points. Some of the performers were clearly not singers, or they were poorly cast into the wrong singing role. John Langley, for example, had some of the more disappointing solo's, despite a long history of professional performance. I was informed, later, that he was a tenor cast in the role of a bass, which explains why, half the time, you could not hear what he was singing even from my third-row seat. The remaining faults were excusable, though I was disappointed one of the very first songs -- Bachelor Habberdasher -- came off weakly, though the actor, Earl Lehkamp, made up for it later with some well-timed one-liners that will leave you with side pain ("You're my only chance to get laid!"). Even Carletti was a weak singer, though she made up for it with the amount of fun she was clearly having that transferred to the audience. At some point, I made a note in my program: "Is the music played this loudly to cover up the gaps in some actor's abilities?" Meh. 

The remaining "stuff" you hear about in reviews -- costumes (decent, correct for the show, nothing spectacular), sets (it's a small theatre, they made do), etc. -- was unremarkable and unspectacular, but it worked because the cast made it work and never let the obvious pitfalls stand in their way, often times playing up the goofs. I am left with the same impression of Falcon that I left Hamlet with: everything else they don't do well is made up for the talent and enthusiasm of their actors.

The musical has already garnered a little bit of buzz -- our little AveQ troupe this weekend was talking about it. I told a handful of people at the bar, and they said they had heard good things about the show. I have a feeling that, by the time the run is over (two more weekends, Fridays and Saturdays only), quite a few people will have enjoyed it, and I make a firm recommendation that you be amongst the people who have seen it. You'll be disappointed if you don't.

Of the $15 it would take to buy a full price ticket -- you will definitely get $13.50 or $14 out of enjoyment from it. (Order tickets here.)


Lee! said...

Poseidon! gets a second sinking

Hell in a Handbag’s production comes back to the Chopin.

By Kris Vire
A campy musical docks in Chicago for a second sinking.

There’s got to be a morning after. So says the Oscar-winning theme from The Poseidon Adventure, the 1972 camp classic about an ocean liner capsized by a tidal wave. (It was produced by disaster-movie maven Irwin Allen, whose other projects included The Towering Inferno and TV-movie gems Fire! and Flood!)

David Cerda’s inspired parody, Poseidon!, first produced by Hell in a Handbag in 2002, gets its morning after with a June 18–July 26 remount at the Chopin (1543 W Division St, 800-838-3006; It’s framed as a play within a play: Attendees at a New Year’s Eve Poseidon party—the movie is set during New Year’s—sit down for a screening (allowing for direct, heckling commentary); as the “guests” move in and out of the party, they double as the movie characters.

The humor can be delightfully broad, as when Cerda turns Shelley Winters’s line “In the water, I’m a very skinny lady” into a faux-underwater musical number, but also brilliantly subtle, like when you realize, pre–tidal wave, the ship’s house band is playing the Diana Ross tune “Upside Down.” If you didn’t catch Poseidon! the first time around, get on board. We promise you’ll flip.

Lee! said...

Come and join us in Chicago with the full-fledged all-out version of the updated "Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical"