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Roller Disco the Musical!

This musical based on the silly 1979 film fails to capture the fun of the era.

By Boston
Ahmad Maksoud and Jacqui Grilli
in Roller Disco the Musical!
(© Guardrail Photography)
Ahmad Maksoud and Jacqui Grilli
in Roller Disco the Musical!
(© Guardrail Photography)
You don't go to a show titled Roller Disco the Musical!, now at Oberon, expecting profundity -- especially since its the source material, a 1979 movie designed to relaunch Linda Blair's career, was not exactly genius material.

But one does expect some clever spoofing and fancy footwork, and you'll find very little of either at this lackluster parody by Sam Forman and director/choreographer Jen Wineman -- enthusiastically performed by a mostly youthful cast.

Debbie Sinclair (here played appealingly by Jacqui Grilli, sporting a "rainbow onesie" and era-appropriate poufed bangs) is a privileged Beverly Hills teen whose talent with the flute will soon be taking her to Juilliard.

First, though, she has a bit of adolescent defiance to attend to: "I'm heading to the beach to hang out with the burnouts," she announces to her parents (Mariah MacFarlane and Kenneth Miller, both mildly amusing as WASPy caricatures).

Down on the Venice boardwalk, Debbie finds herself attracted to Olympic aspirant Johnny Max, played by Ahmad Maksoud with an oddly off-putting mix of pouty childishness and free-floating animosity. He also adheres to what appears to be a general directorial mandate: the entire cast strenuously over-emotes from start to finish, and the "dopey teen" routine quickly wears.

Of the entire cast, DJ Petrosino, in a couple of subsidiary roles (Johnny's sidekick, later a Mafioso-type mall developer), seems to be having the best time, and whenever he's on, the feeling is mutual.

Kennard Jackson deserves a good-sport award for playing both a stereotypical Afro-wigged street kid, equipped with token "boombox" (Victor Yambao's patently faux props, including a Louis Vuitton hobo bundle, are the most consistently rewarding sight gags on view) and a uniformed, if far-from-subservient maid.

In the end, though, Roller Disco misses a prime opportunity to capture -- and make fond fun of -- a genuinely silly chapter in our collective cultural history.


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