BWW Review: DISASTER! THE MUSICAL Cruises into the Wilmington Drama League for its Not-So-Disastrous Delaware Premiere
Shefon Taylor as faded disco singer Levora Verona with Ensemble Members Alfred Lance, Chrissy Steif and Austin Whittington.
Photo courtesy of John McCafferty / MJ Mac Productions
1972 - The S.S. Poseidon, an ocean liner slated for retirement, makes way on its final journey during New Year's Eve. Despite protests from the captain, the new owner insists he go full speed, and straight into a tsunami. (Who will ever forget the upside-down Christmas tree, or Shelly Winters swimming.)
1974 - The Glass Tower, a record-setting 138 story skyscraper, suffers an undetected fire on the 81st floor during pre-dedication testing due to an electrical short from a subcontractor's shoddy workmanship. (To hell with the scenic elevator, save the cat!)
1977 - A 747 jet collides with a small plane, killing several crew members and blinding the Captain. Somehow, the control tower must get a pilot aboard the jet so it can land. (Efram Zimbalist, Jr. and his eye glitching - sheer movie magic.)
DISASTER! THE MUSICAL is a new, straight from Broadway, jukebox musical featuring some unforgettable songs of the '70s. (I would list a few of the songs, but the Directors prefer to keep it secret.) The brainchild of three-time Emmy Award nominee and SiriusXM Broadway host, Seth Rudetsky, and Jack Plotnick, DISASTER! sets itself more on the Poseidon course of adventure than others in the genre.
It's 1979, and New York's hottest A-listers are lining up for the opening of a floating casino and discotheque. What begins as a night of boogie fever quickly changes to panic as the ship succumbs to multiple disasters, such as earthquakes, tidal waves and infernos. As the night turns into day, everyone struggles to survive and, quite possibly, repair the love that they've lost... or at least escape the killer rats. (Music Theatre International)
DISASTER! THE MUSICAL is written as a hilarious homage to the era of disaster movies and the hustle, with larger-than-life characters and snappy dialogue that require precision in execution. I attended opening night for WDL's production, and am not sure if I witnessed jitters or lack of precision. The cast was entirely vested in their performances but it wasn't enough to overcome the shortfalls in timing and delivery. A few actors seemed not to know their lines. Set changes that brought the action to a halt and body microphones that hummed or cut out didn't help either. Nevertheless, the hokey fun of the piece is enjoyable enough.
This is a show full of gags that are funny on their face, but soar in hilarity when deftly crafted. Stage veterans, Kathy Buterbaugh and David Wills as the "old, married couple" Shirley and Maury, gave life to the show whenever on stage. Even though the show is total camp, Buterbaugh and Wills are dimensional in their characterizations. Both are always a pleasure a watch.
Music Director Matt Casarino led the tight, brass-fueled band, The Stormy Meadows. The show's main couple Chad (Dale Martin, Jr.) and Marianne (Ashley Bruce) are paired together nicely and did a fine job in their solos and duets. Mr. Martin handled the '70s high-voiced love ballads well enough. Ms. Bruce brought the right amount of sweetness and sass to her songs. The often overlook Ensemble moves and grooves with gusto courtesy of choreographer, Tommy Fisher-Klein. The standout for me was Jared DeStafney as twins, Ben and Lisa. For a young performer to accomplish the needs of this duel role so well, as to bring a smile to everyone's face, each and every time, is noteworthy.
DISASTER! THE MUSICAL is total escapism in retro style for those 13 and older.
DISASTER! THE MUSICAL
By Seth Rudetsky & Jack Plotnick
Stage Director - Nick D'Argenio
Music Director - Matt Casarino
Wilmington Drama League
10 W. Lea Boulevard
Wilmington, DE 19802
Runs January 26 through February 4