BWW Review: DISASTER! at Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre at Essex Community College is a HOOT
DISASTER! is the definitive juke box musical of the '80s and if you like that music, you will LOVE this show.
I am a huge fan of Todd Pearthree, the legendary Baltimore musical theater iconic director who was such a success with his Musical Theatre Machine many years ago. Well, he's back at it with DISASTER! Playing at the Cockpit in Court Summer Theater at Essex Community College. He directs AND choreographs this hysterically entertaining romp with panache, with zest, with spirit, with vigor, with gusto, with liveliness, with vitality, with enthusiasm, and energy. I would have loved to have seen rehearsals.
You may recognize the name Seth Rudetsky if you are a fan of Sirius/XM Radio's Broadway Channel where he is a disc jockey spinning Broadway show music and interviewing Broadway stars. He's also an accomplished pianist having played in numerous Broadway pits, brings his work to various venues across the country, (see him Philadelphia in July), and runs Broadway cruises with his Broadway fans around the world.
Well, DISASTER! is his baby. It was his concept which he created with Drew Geraci, wrote with Jack Plotnick, and did the Song Arrangements. He even starred in the Broadway production from 2016 that featured Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Adam Pascal, and Faith Prince,
Rudetsky even made the trip to Essex to attend the Sunday matinee last week, entertained after the show with a Q. and A., and left an autographed photo which you can see on the lecturn by the ticket takers. He is quite a character.
I'm sure Pearthree must have seen this show on Broadway and knew he would want to direct it. And I'm glad he did.
What Rudetsky does is combine the disaster movies of the time like "The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure" and pokes fun at them with some great music. The funniest was the use of the band Chicago's hit song "25 or 6 to 4" he intertwines with the plot. If you were at the theater last Friday night that was me with the over-the-top laughter. I could not stop myself.
In second place is the astonishing Lisa Pastella who plays "Sister Mary Downy", a guitar-strumming nun who arrives at the gambling casino ship on the Hudson River to convert party-goeers. She says, "Gambling is a sin, you're going to hell, have a nice day." She herself has had a gambling habit, and one of the funniest scenes in the show is her orgasmic dance with a "Hawaii Five-O "themed slot machine. She sings the classic "Never Can Say Goodbye". The house roared with laughter. She was terrific!!
In third place for laughter was Liz Boyer Hunnicutt's "Shirley" who uses her tap-dancing skills to send Morse code to passengers trapped on the ship a floor beneath her.
In fourth place is the talented Liam Hamilton who plays twins brother and sister Ben and Lisa with the help of really quick changes.
I could go on and on about others.
A special shout out to Lauren Spencer Harris who had to replace Nancy Parrish Asendorf ("Jackie") at the last minute due to an injury and had only three days to learn the role and no one could tell.
The entire ensemble deserves credit, especially Brian Jacobs, Nancy Parrish Asendorg, Rikki Howies Lacewell (the disco diva) and Carly Amato.
Kudos to the entire design team: Michael Rasinski (Set Designer), Thomas Gardner (LIghting Designer) Wil Crowther (Costume Designer), and Corey Sekulow (Sound Designer).
A successful musical needs a good group of musicians and DISASTER! Has it. Michael DeVito conducts the wonderful pit: R. Christopher Rose, Tom Lindsey, Jon Guo, Steve Haaser, Brandon Rivera, Mark Kelly, and Lisa Wood.
Do not miss DISASTER! It ends its run Sunday, July 30. For tickets, call 443-840-2787 or visit www.ccbc.edu/cockpit.
Next up at the Main Stage is NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT running July 19 to August 4.
A.R. Gurney's SYLVIA plays until July 30 and THE UNEXPECTED GUEST runs July 20 to August 4.
The Young People's Theatre presents DISNEY'S ALADDIN, JR. July 6 to July 14.