Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On THIS AIN'T NO DISCO at Atlantic Theatre Company

By: Jul. 24, 2018
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Review Roundup: Critics Weigh In On THIS AIN'T NO DISCO at Atlantic Theatre Company

Atlantic Theater Company presents the world premiere production of This Ain't No Disco, a new musical from Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Peter Yanowitz (The Wallflowers).

Featuring a book by Trask, Yanowitz and Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), direction by Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Anastasia), and choreography by Camille A. Brown (Once On This Island), the production will play through Sunday, August 12th, 2018 Off-Broadway at the Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street).

Part rock opera, part impressionist tone poem set in the nightclubs and art world of 1979 New York City, This Ain't No Disco interweaves the stories of strivers, dreamers and drifters searching for their place at Studio 54 and Mudd Club, the art scene and downtown lofts. In their uptown / downtown quest for revelry and kinship, this disparate group, in different stages of becoming and falling apart, find themselves and each other in a city on the verge of a massive cultural shift.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Why enjoy a wild night on the town when you can skip straight to the head-pounding hangover? That would appear to be the animating principle behind "This Ain't No Disco," the tone-deaf, cliché-clogged rock opera that opened on Tuesday night at the Linda Gross Theater in an Atlantic Theater Company production.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: There's seldom much of substance to hold on to. And despite a host of strongly sung performances, what's there often feels flattened by a high-energy but unmemorable score and a storyline anchored by cliché.

Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter: Despite the impressive pedigree of talent also including director Darko Tresnjak (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder) and choreographer Camille A. Brown (Once on This Island), This Ain't No Disco seriously flounders in its world premiere at off-Broadway's Atlantic Theater.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: Trask and Yanowitz, although mesmerized by those authentic images, haven't translated them into anything resembling the bona fide originals that inspired them. The costumes are imitative, the performances are caricatures, and - here comes the mortal blow - the choreography is awful. A lot of the missteps committed in this exuberant if clumsy homage can be forgiven, but not the choreography, which is all energy and no style.

Robert Hofler, TheWrap: Here and there, bits of dialogue move the muddled story along, and while one misses following Chad/Rake's story beyond what Mark Christopher gave us at the movies, the good news is that Trask and Yanowitz's score is never far away. Darko Tresnjak's direction fails to disguise the book's many flaws, but he keeps the story moving even when it takes one of many wrong turns.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: With a with a title like This Ain't No Disco it's tempting to reply that this ain't no musical, either. Instead, it's an impressionistic jumble of songs and scenes that aim to recreate the spirit of the late 1970s and early 1980s club scene in New York, and in particular the heady cocktail of music, dancing, sexuality and celebrity around Manhattan's iconic Studio 54.

Elysa Gardner, New York Stage Review: But if This Ain't No Disco is never dull, and even intermittently thrilling, it still leaves opportunities not fully realized. Not unlike the decade did itself, come to think of it.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: The musical is distinguished, even saved from total dud territory, by the wonderful voice of Ware, and the passion and energy of the company. Her performance, and the depth she brings to her character's bonkers story arc, is almost too big for the Atlantic stage-very welcome that it is.

Naveen Kumar, Towleroad: It's tough to discern what story the creators of This Ain't No Disco, a rock opera that opened off-Broadway tonight, aim to tell about the famed nightclub. It could, at various moments, be one about access and escape, fame and artistry, the primordial uptown-downtown tug-of-war endemic to pop culture. But it is rarely any one of these for long, and the result feels like a shopworn grab bag without much clutch.

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