Boogie on over to the Connecticut Repertory Theatre “Disaster!” the first production of the 2018 Nutmeg Summer Series.
Disaster! combines the classic disaster films of the 70’s with the unforgettable (even if you try) disco music of the era. The co-writing team of the show, as Jack Plotnick directed the production and three-time Emmy Award nominee and SiriusXM Broadway host Seth Rudetsky reprises the role he originated on Broadway (Ted Schneider).
Get there early for the opportunity to get a pre-show hustle lesson on Pier 54, at the opening night for “The Barracuda," New York City’s first floating casino. But get back to your seat because you won’t want to miss a minute of the madcap adventure that will ensue to the passengers boarding the ship.
Movies like Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno, Jaws and more are spoofed by the standard characters you’d find in the genre including the intelligent leader, the handsome hero, the damsel in distress, the resourceful women, the member of the press, the plucky kid, the religious representative, and, of course, the selfish sleaze ball.
Plotnick and Rudetsky creatively build the plot with a combination of the many disaster movies of the 70’s with the songs of the era. The dialogue leads seamlessly into a musical cue for over 30 disco tunes. Sometimes, you’ll just get a teaser line or two of the song; sometimes you’ll be treated to the whole song. They’ve even squeezed in a full company tap number to “A Fifth of Beethoven” lead by Anne L. Nathan. Whether you loved or hated the music of the 70’s, you can’t help but laugh at loud at the histrionics the characters must endure.
The witty repartee, slapstick humor, and cheesy puns are the heart and soul of the script. Don’t be fooled by the playful parody of the genre or the music, this jukebox musical is filled with stellar performances.
Leading the impressive cast are Broadway veterans Seth Rudetsky as disaster expert, Ted Schneider; Anne L. Nathan as Shirley; Angie Schworer as Jackie; and Maggie McDowell as Sister Mary Downey.
Rudetsky charms the audience with his tongue-in-cheek performance and silly - but impressive - balance beam skills as Ted. Ted’s warnings of an impending earthquake go unheeded by the polyester cad Tony Delvecchio (Nick Nudler). Nick nailed his portrayal of the guy you have to hate but brought warmth to the character so you couldn’t wait to see him again and again.
The handsome hero, Chad (Ben Jackson Walker) meets up with the woman who left him at the altar, reporter Marianne (Alyah Scott) Walker’s vocals were outstanding along with his hysterical reactions.
The loveable older couple, Maury and Shirley played by Griffin Binnicker and Anne L. Nathan had such adorable interactions, even when Shirley’s illness causes some well-timed verbal outbursts. Nathan's interpretation of Shirley Summers was a sweet tribute to Shelley Winters.
The beautiful lounge singer, Jackie Noelle (Angie Schworer), desperately waiting for Tony to propose, juggles her professional life, love and her “twins” Ben and Lisa both played by Sana “Prince” Sarr. Sarr impressively switches between the two characters with facial gems and amazing vocals. Disco Diva Levora Varona (Leanne Antonio) knocks it out of the park with her combination of sassy attitude and vocal acumen.
Of course what disaster movie would be complete without the moral compass of a religious character. Sister Mary Downy (Maggie McDowell) is battling her own gambling addiction. Her pokerfaced humor, delayed reactions and “you are going to hell” warnings make her slot machine love song “Never Can Say Goodbye” one of the funniest bits in the show.
Rounding out the cast are Simon Longnight (Scott), Sasha Brown, Spencer Croy, Hayden Elizabeth Price, and Mike Katz. These ensemble members, handle multiple roles and danced the night away to the energetic choreography by Mary Ann Lamb. An eight-piece orchestra lead by music director Bryan McAdams will have you dancing in your seat.
The show is riddled with impeccable comic timing, classic plot lines, hilarious homages, and songs of the 70’s. Fan Zheng’s costume design embodies the era and was complete with platform shoes, glitter, polyester and bellbottoms. The lighting design provided by Alan C. Edwards took us from discotheque, to the depths of the seas, to the flickering florescent lights of a post-disaster casino.
DISASTER! by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) runs at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT through June 16. Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Subscription package options range from $84 to $117. Single tickets prices start at $48. Discounts are available for seniors and students.
There will be an ASL Interpreted performance on Saturday, June 16 at 2p.m.
For additional ticket information or to purchase tickets by phone, call 860.486.2113. To purchase tickets online, visit www.crt.uconn.edu.