Review “Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical” (Hell in a Handbag): Classic Handbag!

Hell in a Handbag presents POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical.

It was my pleasure to be in the original audience when David Cerda (book, lyrics, music*) christened his ship, POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical. That maiden voyage launched Hell in a Handbag Productions seventeen years ago. For nearly two decades, I’ve enjoyed plenty of campy fun Handbag style but I’ve secretly yearned for the return of the POSEIDON. Well, the wait is over! She’s back and spectacular! Finally, there is a morning after.    

Inspired by the 1970s film The Poseidon Adventure, Cerda creates a musical-within-a- musical. Caitlin Jackson (in the role formerly held by Cerda) is hosting a POSEIDON viewing party. Director Derek Van Barham skillfully stages the guests on the floor directly in front of the stage. These film fans aka Poseidonites belt out “Movies have the Power”. They settle into seats in the front row with drinks and enthusiasm. Throughout the show, this audience-within-an-audience frequently jump up onstage to sing, dance and die… as needed.

Cerda’s main focus is a spoof on the actual film, The Poseidon Adventure. Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman, Pamela Sue Martin, Roddy McDowall, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons get a resurrected encore of their cult-like performances and careers. Cerda’s script amplifies these familiar characters with LMAO results.

Cerda makes the earnest kid (played by the delightfully amusing Frankie Leo Bennett) more of the crew’s boy toy. His Susan (played by a perfectly deadface Katherine Bellatone) has a dark obsessive crush on the reverend. One of Bellatone’s casual remarks involving a brush is riotous. And Cerda’s over-the-top dimwitted Nonnie (played by an outstanding Stevie Love) is a scene stealer. Whether it’s a look, a line, or a flip of hair, Love crushes the lampoon. Love singing “Did you like his music?” is pure comedy gold. 

The entire cast is amazing at entertaining during a disaster. Shane Roberie (Rogo) and Elizabeth Lesinski (Linda) are the married tough-talking cop and plucky ex-hooker. Their hilarious conversations are rapid-fire screaming. When he yells at her not to take off her gown to climb to safety, she spiritedly retorts with singing “Just Panties.” Later, she sings “Bad girls need love too.” Lesinski’s powerhouse voice makes her sassy burlesque numbers memorable.

As Rev. Scott, David Lipshutz is commanding with his confident “The only way is up”. Lipshutz’s swagger inspires the misfits to follow his lead. His last “Oscar-chasing” speech is humorously reminiscent of Gene Hackman in the same predicament.

So much to love about this voyage! Although you don’t have to see the movie to enjoy the jokes and singing, your appreciation of the clever layers of snark will be enhanced by watching or re-watching it. POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical is Hell in a Handbag’s origin story. See where Chicago camp started, get aboard this sinking ship!              

Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes includes a late start and an intermission

At The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago

Parody based on the film The Poseidon Adventure

Book and Lyrics by David Cerda

Music by David Cerda with Scott Lamberty*

Directed by Derek Van Barham

Music Direction by Andrew Milliken

Choreography by Breon Arzell

Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm 

Sundays at 3 pm

Thru April 28, 2019

Tickets are currently available at or by calling (800) 838-3006.

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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