×

Off Broadway Review: ‘This Ain’t No Disco’

This aptly titled musical relives the dizzying disco scene as it never was.

With:
Samantha Marie Ware, Chilina Kennedy, Peter LaPrade, Will Connolly, Krystina Alabado, Lulu Fall, Eddie Cooper, Trevor McQueen, Theo Stockman, Antonio Watson, Cameron Amandus.

Here are lyrics from a song in the new musical “This Ain’t No Disco” that creatives Stephen Trask (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) and Peter Yanowitz hope will make us yearn for the golden age of disco, circa 1979-80, when everyone was flocking to after-hours clubs like Studio 54. Give a listen: “Rollerboy angels are skating / Glistening pectorals smooth / The beat and the pulse are creating / An anthem your soul for to soothe.”

Doesn’t it just make you want to jump over that velvet rope and claw your way inside, where all the beautiful people are getting drunk and stoned and having fun? No? Well, consider yourself saved, because the rest of this new musical is just as dumb as that dopey lyric.

In its heyday, the nightclub that Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell (played here by a crazed-looking Theo Stockman) built into the honeypot known as Studio 54 was, indeed, the cool place to be. On any given night, Andy Warhol would be holding court on a couch, Mick Jagger would be leaning against the bar and Liza would be giggling with a gaggle of boys. And if you were young enough, pretty enough, and dressed to kill, you didn’t even have to be famous to get in.

Trask and Yanowitz, although mesmerized by those authentic images, haven’t translated them into anything resembling the bona fide originals that inspired them.  The costumes are imitative, the performances are caricatures, and — here comes the mortal blow — the choreography is awful.  A lot of the missteps committed in this exuberant if clumsy homage can be forgiven, but not the choreography, which is all energy and no style.

Granted, the mindless book, also the work of Trask and Yanowitz (with help from Rich Elice), offers little for choreographer Camille A. Brown (who made magic in “Once on this Island”) to work with. A retread of the perennial theme of the artist as revolutionary outsider, the story trots along after Sammy (a sullen Samantha Marie Ware), a street kid whose scruffy punk style is immediately recognized as an avant-garde statement by The Artist, played by Will Connolly and bedecked and be-wigged a la Andy Warhol. “I rather like the hat,” is his gnomic comment on Sammy’s singular style.

Once inside the club, we’re exposed to lank imitations of some long-ago real deals. To advance the floppy plot, there’s a pushy publicist named Binky (Chilina Kennedy) who transforms an eye-catching hustler named Chad (Peter LaPrade) into a trendy artist re-named Rake. And to give us a taste of the “real” people behind the glitz, there are two hat-check kids named Meesh (Krystina Alabado) and Landa (Lulu Fall) to throw shade on the V.I.P.s who throng the club. But like everything else in the show, the characters lack authenticity. That makes them hard to sympathize with and harder to satirize — all in all, just hard to take.

From Studio 54 to the Mudd Club to an anonymous loft in Tribeca, Chad and Binky and the rest of the strivers trawl the city, looking for the “real” action. Strange to say, the repetitive music doesn’t lean into the changing trends, while the choreography just re-works the same old steps for tired feet.  This ain’t no disco, to be sure.

Off Broadway Review: 'This Ain't No Disco'

Linda Gross Theater; 199 seats; $90 top. Opened July 24, 2018. Reviewed July 20. Running time: TWO HOURS, 20 MINUTES.

Production: An Atlantic Theater production of a musical in two acts with music & lyrics by Stephen Trask & Peter Yanowitz and book by Stephen Trask, Peter Yanowitz and Rick Elice.

Creative: Directed by Darko Tresnjak. Sets, Jason Sherwood; costumes, Sarah Laux; lighting, Ben Stanton; sound, Emily Lazar; projections, Aaron Rhyne; hair & makeup, Mike Potter; choreography, Camille A. Brown; music director, Darius Smith; orchestrations, Stephen Trask & Peter Yanowitz; production stage manager, Samantha Watson.

Cast: Samantha Marie Ware, Chilina Kennedy, Peter LaPrade, Will Connolly, Krystina Alabado, Lulu Fall, Eddie Cooper, Trevor McQueen, Theo Stockman, Antonio Watson, Cameron Amandus.

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content