NY Review: 'The Groove Factory'

TGF 12 Productions at the Theatre at St. Clement's as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival

Reviewed by Ron Cohen

July 31, 2012


Photo by Kevin Thomas Garcia
The very last gasps of the disco era are dredged up mercilessly in "The Groove Factory." If you have an unquenchable appetite for the disco beat and are into the fun side of hard drugs and grotesque drag, there may be moments where your fancy is tickled, but for the most part this New York Musical Theatre Festival entry is a hard show to embrace. The music, by David James Boyd, who also wrote the lyrics, has the disco sound down pat, with orchestrations produced and arranged on a soundtrack by BetBoyz, a music production service co-founded by Boyd. It's ingratiating for a bit but wears thin, even though interrupted now and then by pop power ballads and the flatfooted dialogue exchanges of Chad Kessler and Boyd's book.

The story has an interesting wrinkle, in that it takes place on Dec. 31, 1999. As you may recall, it was feared that the millennium's end would cause computers to crash, sending the world into chaos. This doomsday threat motivates Chazz Goodhart (Tommaso Antico), an aspiring DJ, to leave his rural hometown and go to New York, so he can attend the New Year's Eve "party of the century" at the dance-club mecca the Groove Factory. It's there that his DJ idol, Willy D. Vinyl (played by the busy Boyd), oversees the festivities.

Chazz is promised by his Uncle Joey (Tony Perry), a drag queen, that they'll make it beyond the club's well-policed ropes. But that's easier said than done, and the Y2K theme recedes into the background as Uncle Joey worries about how to get into club, and Vinyl worries about the drug-infested club's threatened shutdown by the city's moral watchdogs. We also have an interlude at a club named the Bunghole, where Uncle Joey and his ungainly drag colleagues perform in its Dragorama. Chazz and Joey eventually make it inside the Groove Factory, where Chazz gets caught up in a climactic miasma of sex and drugs, although the closing number assures us that this was the "Best of Times."

Under Tom Wojtunik's direction, the 13-member cast works hard. There are strong singing voices, including a perpetually undulating girl trio—Kim Sozzi, Emmy Raver Lampman, and Badia Farah—who instill some much-needed verve into the proceedings. There's plenty of routine disco-infused choreography by Buddy Casimano and costume glitter by David Withrow. What's in short supply are charm and taste. Sometimes the lack seems deliberate. Maybe that's in sync with the disco era, but a little wouldn't hurt.

Presented by TGF 12 Productions as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 W. 46th St., NYC. July 26–29. Remaining performances: Fri., July 27, 9 p.m.; Sat., July 28, 1 p.m.; Sun., July 29, 3 p.m. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, or www.nymg.org. Casting by Holly Buczek.
 

 
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