Friday, March 26, 2010

Catch some 'disco' fever with Arts in Motion

Kennett Drama and Arts in Motion travel back in time for “Disco Inferno,” a bright, light and altogether goofy stringing together of hits from the 1970s.

Like “Mamma Mia” and “We Will Rock You,” “Disco Inferno,” which continues at the Loynd Auditorium at Kennett High School in North Conway March 26 and 27 at 7 p.m., is a show that brings together a collection of unrelated songs. The plot is secondary to the music.

Set in 1976, the shows chronicles the rise and fall of Jack (Rafe Matregrano), a would-be singer who works at a disco. He makes a pact with Lady Marmalade (Hanna Paven), an associate of the devil, and soon becomes famous and rich, but, naturally, at the cost of his personal life.

Quick side note about the script. Writer Justin Sepple includes songs that were written after 1976, which in nearly all cases could've been fixed by setting the show in 1978. I know it is silly to expect historical accuracies in a show called “Disco Inferno,” but the laziness of Sepple still irks me. A joke about Ringo Starr with a reference to something from the 1980s was particularly irksome.

Clearly, not every audience member is going to notice or care about such details. I'm a geek and these sort of things bother me, but not enough to ruin the enjoyability of director Glenn Noble's production, which while overlong is a lot of fun.

"Disco Inferno" is essentially 1970s karaoke, but, for the most part, it is good karaoke. This isn't embarrassing, laughable drunken karaoke, but rather the kind where you pull the person aside afterward and say: "Wow, that was really great. Have you ever thought about going on 'American Idol?'"

And Simon would've been proud of Shannon Reville who absolutely nails "I Will Survive." Reville, who also did the show's choreography, plays Jack's girlfriend. Matregrano and Reville have a sweet chemistry together that shines on songs like “Don't Give Up on Me Baby.”

Paven is another stand out belting out a sultry version of “Hot Stuff” and later joining Hayley Szekely for a lively rendition of “Pop Muzick.”

Jamie McDonough gives an entertaining performance as Kathy, a girl with a tough shell, but a soft inside. She only has one song, “Streetlife,” but she makes it memorable.

Kevin Ahearn as Jack's awkward best friend provides solid comic relief, particularly in a scene that flashes back to the day The Beatles broke up. Ahearn's attempts to woo the girl that will later become his girlfriend (Shelby Noble) fail miserably as he keeps accidentally referencing Beatles songs.

At the center, holding the show together, is Matregrano, a charismatic performer with vocal abilities that match or even surpass his acting abilities. “Instant Replay” is particularly memorable as is “Disco Inferno,” “Play That Funky Music White Boy” and “Starman,” in which Matregrano accompanies himself on acoustic guitar.

This is undemanding, light entertainment that doesn't pretend to be anything more. It also proves to be an impressive showcase for young local talent.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit

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