By Oscar Duffy
Jukebox musicals are a genre themselves these days, often involving artiﬁcial plots that serve simply as excuses to break out into hit tune after hit tune. Thus, the success of Disco Inferno rests on the energy and exuberance needed to bring these songs to life. Luckily, Hild Bede Theatre have gone all out to produce a riotously entertaining musical production, albeit one that’s a little rough around the edges.
The story is a crazy concoction of pop culture and camp. Jack works at the Disco Inferno Club with dreams of being a professional singer. When Lady Marmalade, a temptress from Hell (just go with it) offers him fame and fortune in return for his soul, chaos (and lots and lots of music) ensue.
It must ﬁrst be said that the team led by Director Lauren Brewer have effectively recognised that the show lives and dies on its embrace of the inherently fun elements of this musical and indeed, this pays off with thoroughly entertaining results. The opening performance of Kool and the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ involves the ensemble running through the audience and bursting onto the stage. There is an immediate rush of energy and this sustains throughout the entire show. Vibrant purples and yellows ﬂood the set and lights line the front of the stage, adding to this sense of being in a dance club.
The dancing is consistently engaging, making use of a variety of styles, from disco to contemporary, and there isn’t a weak link in this aspect in the whole cast. Choreographer Siobhan Gardiner should be commended for utilising a game cast and bringing out the best in them. Performers ﬁll the stage and are consistently engaging. Favourite numbers included songs like ‘YMCA’ (featuring a hilarious cameo role worth the price of admission alone) and David Bowie’s ‘Starman’.
Among the best of the cast is Olivia Jones as Lady Marmalade. She oozes style and her performance of Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ proves to be one of the highlight numbers, and some of the funniest material is provided by her. The other source of comedic value is Ben Stoneley in the role of best friend Tom. While he proves a likeable and often very funny foil for the more serious Jack, some of his jokes don’t land particularly well. This is mostly towards the beginning of the show, and indeed, the ﬁrst few scenes can mostly be described as stilted. There seemed to be nervousness in the acted moments, and while the cast generally gained in conﬁdence as the show went on, they were clearly more comfortable singing and dancing than acting. That sometimes makes for a jarring imbalance in quality. When singing, the whole ensemble is strong and conﬁdent. The same cannot always be said for the acting.
It’s quite possible that some of the issues are the result of some technical issues suffered in the ﬁrst half. This is typical of ﬁrst night performances, but there were frequent moments of audible feedback and microphones not working. Isabella Thompson as Kathy had to sing an entire song without the mic, and these general issues proved to be distracting for the audience, and inevitably those on stage. I’m sure that these difﬁculties will be ironed out as the run continues, but it was undoubtedly a hindrance to the overall enjoyment.
There’s no denying that the prevailing feeling from watching Disco Inferno is a sense of fun. There are enough fabulous elements (most notably the fantastic dance numbers) to distract from some of the ﬁner issues. I recommend it for a couple of hours of perfectly enjoyable escapism.
Image: Hild Bede Theatre