BWW Review: The Pollard Theatre Sails into Summer with DISASTER: THE MUSICAL
The Pollard Theatre Company sails into summer with the ultra campy and ridiculous jukebox musical, Disaster: The Musical, written by Broadway music director, pianist, and personality, Seth Rudethsky and tv/film actor and writer, Jack Plotnik. Using 34 of your favorite hits from the 1970s cleverly strewn together, Disaster is an homage to the wonderfully, awful disaster movies of the decade. What begins as a celebratory night at the grand opening of a floating casino and discotheque, quickly turns to...well...disaster as the passengers dodge earthquake, inferno, tidal wave, shark attack, diabetes, out of tune guitars, piranhas and more!
Steering the ship is Director and Choreographer, Matthew Sipress-Banks, who has cleverly created moments of camp and cliché in the most effective and hilarious of ways, simultaneously capturing the well-loved tropes of catastrophe movies and musical comedy. Wearing two hats as director and choreographer, he spared no energy filling every moment and inch of the stage with very energetic movement. The overuse of neatly polished grand battements mingled with ecstatically executed disco moves only adds to the absurdity. Something to be commended of Sipress-Banks is his ability to assemble A-list, all-star casts. Standouts among the ship's crew include Oklahoma favorites Matthew Alvin Brown, Emily Pace, Charlie Monnot, De'Vin Lewis, and Erin Heatly.
Brown masterfully tackles every role I've seen him portray from transgendered rockstar to nerdy botanist, now adding Tony, the sleazy, misogynist, businessman, greasy enough to fry up bacon. Donning a cringey 70s era moustache, Brown makes us love to hate him with every nuanced mannerism, gesture, and perfectly timed, wise-cracked joke. Sailing right along next to him is the brilliantly talented, Emily Pace, portraying revolutionary reporter Marianne, chasing career over love whilst taking down the patriarchy, empowering us with her ambitious, budding feminist anthem, "I Am Woman / That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be," belted out with powerful perfection. Every moment Pace is on stage you can't help but watch her. The always lovable Charlie Monnot saves the day and wins our hearts with his portrayal of Ted, the ever-cautious disaster specialist, putting a special twist on disco tunes in a way that only Charlie Monnot can. Diva extraordinaire herself, De'Vin Lewis, is gloriously type-cast as the fabulous, over-the-top disco queen, Levora. Accompanied by a timely afro and a miniature (stuffed) canine companion, Lewis will make you laugh and swoon with her effortless renditions of 70s favorites such as "Mahogany" and "Knock on Wood." Last and certainly not least, Erin Heatly's, show-stopping portrayal of eleven-year-old twins Ben and Lisa is executed with comedic genius. Ben and Lisa are the twin children of the vampy damsel Jackie, the ships hired lounge singer, played with pizazz by Kara Chapman. Heatly, portraying both twins, displays a refreshing level of physical and emotional comedic athleticism as she seamlessly shifts between each character.
Seth Paden, portraying Chad, fits the role perfectly of Marianne's spurned young lover, soaring especially in "I Can't Live." Chemistry between Paden and Pace is reignited in their duet "I Really Want to See You Tonight" after previously sharing the stage in Ghost this past October. Jared Blount, was the pitiable, quirky Scott, best friend of Chad searching for love and attention from any female that would look his way. Odra Chapman brought an awkward, dry humor with her portrayal of Sister Mary, a reformed nun with a former gambling addiction. Her folky, strong vocals, of seemingly endless range, offered a different flavor in "Never Can Say Goodbye." James Hughes and Brenda Williams added a sweet layer in their portrayal of Maury and Shirley that might bring an unexpected tear to your eye. The ensemble, made up by Dakota Muckelrath, Clayton Blair, Nicole Phillips, and Sierra Sikes, was the cherry on top, giving moments of humor, fun, despair, and disco, as they hustled, funky chickened, chaînéd, and tap danced the night away before being chopped to pieces or eaten alive by rats!
The funky tunes accompanying the cast are provided by Tristan Gfellar on guitar, Jason Hunt on bass, Lisa Mailcoate on second keyboard and trumpet, Aaron Marshall on drums, with Todd Mailcoate at the helm as music director, pianist, and trombonist. Scenic and lighting design, by Jerome Stevenson, create a playful gymnasium for the actors with a few surprising technical moments of theatre magic including a simple yet visually satisfying final picture of the survivors being helicoptered to safety. Props master, Timothy Stewart, must not go unmentioned in a slightly prop heavy show creating one of my favorite moments with adorable singing piranha puppets. And if that isn't enough to get you in a groovy mood, wigs, by Hannah Finnegan, and costumes by, Michael James, complete the picture with volumized coiffures and silky, shiny men's dress shirts undone to the navel, both elements intricately deconstructing as tragedy unfolds.
Though the title may suggest it, this production is far from a disaster. Sometimes we need the theatre to be deep and meaningful, to be revolutionary, ground-breaking. And sometimes we need to be energized by a night of laughter and 70s music weaving together an absolutely absurd tale, brought to life by some of Oklahoma's best artists. Disaster: The Musical at the Pollard does just that.
Disaster runs through June 29, 2019.
For more information or to buy tickets click HERE.
Photos courtesy of James Michael Avance.