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POSEIDON: AN UPSIDE DOWN MUSICAL Buffalo United Artists/Alleyway Theatre
By A.W.
Aug 2, 2014, 00:42

It’s summer camp time for Buffalo United Artists and I don’t mean the kids’ acting camp BUA runs. Instead, it’s a stage musical version of “The Poseidon Adventure,” the classic disaster film best remembered for Shelley Winters’ performance.
Since Jimmy Janowski is in the Belle role Winters played, you might expect him to get even more carried away than he often does. Instead, as director and designer, Todd Warfield controls Janowski’s performance and eventually provides an entertaining production. Warfield has extensive experience in Hollywood in his younger days and it shows, even when working with a clearly minimal budget.
Making extensive use of stage scaffolding and some good stage hand work, “Poseidon: An Upside Down Musical” shows what can be done with a minimal budget.

The carried away performance comes from Jeffrey Coyle as manic minister Rev. Scott, a man who doesn’t let his next world role interfere with saving people in this world.

The film revolves around the Poseidon, an old ocean liner on the way to the scrap yard, with the owners saving a few bucks by carrying passengers from New York to Athens and then to the torches. On the way, there’s a massive earthquake and tsunami which hits the ship and capsizes it and the story is the few survivors climbing upwards in the upside down ship in hopes of reaching the bottom of the ship and finding a way out. This was originally an Irwin Allen movie and includes a resemblance to a Putt Putt golf course of water hazards…flame hazards…and lots of ladders. It works on the Alleyway stage because of the wheeled scaffolding which is twisted and turned and used for every part of the journey to safety, leaving a few dead bodies like Belle dead along the way.

A key difference here is that David Cerda, Cheryl Snodgrass and Scott Lamberty turned this into a musical, with songs like “Poseidon,” “Mr. Rogo, The Only Way is Up,” “A Very Skinny Lady in the Water” and “Keep on Climbing.”
Joey Bucheker contributed the choreography besides playing the haberdasher Martin or “Bachelor Haberdasher.” There’s also Coyle with “God Wants Winners.” The entire cast does well with a series of songs like “Shut Up” and “Keep on Climbing.”

Warfield never completely lets the production slip over the edge into camp but there are moments and there is the wonderfully loony performance from Coyle. I can see why Janowski wanted to do this show because it is so gloriously silly and the music adds to it, with the story of: Never give up. It isn’t Xenophon finding the sea but the principle is the same when the reach the bilge of the hull. It’s all why this is such an entertaining show with strong performances, Coyle, Janowski, Christopher Standart, Michael Seitz and Maria Droz. There’s also Chuck Basil’s music direction, Warfield’s set and Jamie Nablo Lama’s sound.

Head down to the Alleyway for “Poseidon: An Upside Down Musical.”




POSEIDON Buffalo News Review

Buffalo United Artists flips the script, and the ship, in ‘Poseidon!’

By Colin Dabkowski Updated 2014-07-30 14:43:45

Each summer for the past several years, Buffalo United Artists director Todd Warfield has reached back into the deep catalog of camp-laden American films and pulled out a theatrical hit.

Its latest and largest yet is “Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical,” an adaptation of the 1972 disaster movie “The Poseidon Adventure,” a barely believable tale about a shipwreck filled with creaky dialogue, stereotypical characters and absurd situations. The musical, by the Chicago-based playwright David Cerda, exaggerates the film’s already exaggerated characters and dialogue to near-Titanic proportions.

And the result, at least during a recent Sunday night performance in the Alleyway Theatre, was an audience in near-constant hysterics and a cast that frequently had to hold back its laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.

The BUA cast, experienced in the ways of camp sendups though not necessarily musical ones, prove themselves more than capable. The show features standout performances from Jeffrey Coyle as the overconfident preacher, Eric Rawski and Kerrykate Abel as a tough-as-nails cop and his formerly promiscuous wife, and Jimmy Janowski and Timothy Finnegan as an aging Jewish couple, played in the film by Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson. They were joined by an over-the-top Maria Droz as an annoying young passenger, Christopher Standart as a number of exasperated characters and the hilarious Bebe Bvulgari and Joey Bucheker, among others.

But perhaps the most fun to watch was Michael Seitz as Nonnie, the perpetually stoned and tone-deaf female lounge singer whose vacant stares and daft dialog prompted the loudest laughs of the evening. Even when standing in the background, Seitz never stopped milking his character for laughs, whether pretending to hold his breath for 10 minutes straight or mindlessly staring into a pair of flashlights.

True to the summer camp extravaganzas in which the company specializes, the piece overflows with innuendo, from sly winks at the gender-bending performances of Bvulgari, Janowski and Seitz to much naughtier topics. All of this unfolds on Warfield’s consciously low-budget set, which consists of two huge swiveling metal scaffolds and features more props than we’ve seen in the last half-dozen BUA productions combined.

The music is nothing to speak of, and its chief virtue is that it doesn’t make too many demands on the cast. Musical director and pianist Chuck Basil played it perfectly, however, and made sure each number went off without a hitch. Bucheker’s choreography, like an ’80s workout routine on Red Bull, fits the absurd style of the piece perfectly.

When it comes to camp, Warfield and BUA have set a high bar for themselves. And while “Poseidon!” doesn’t quite reach the absurd depths of past productions like “Mommie Queerest” or “L’Imitation of Life,” it’s still a worthy entry into the company’s ever-expanding canon of summer camp.