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.
What: “Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical”
When: Through Aug. 17
Where: Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley
Tickets: $15 to $25
Info: 886-9239, www.buffalobua.org