Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
Also see Scott's review of Come from Away
Disaster! combines plot elements and themes from various 1970s disaster-based movies accompanied by songs of the era. At the story's core is the opening of a new floating casino in New York City which is beset by various calamities, despite the warnings of a scientist. Throw in several romantic entanglements, a dim-witted lounge singer, a crooked ship owner, a nun with some secrets, and a down-on-her-luck disco diva, and it's the recipe for lots of funny moments. The show opened on Broadway in 2016, following two Off-Broadway runs.
The musical comedy was written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, based off an idea by Rudetsky and Drew Geraci. The plot is intentionally formulaic, silly, and deliciously funny. The characters and situations are outrageous and familiar, especially if you remember any of those disaster films. The disasters which take place include an earthquake, tidal waves, explosions, floods, shark attacks, and more. The choice to have songs from the 1970s serve as the score for the show makes it all the better. The fact that the songs, often interspersed with dialogue pertaining to the plot, fit into the story adds to the amusement of the overall concept. "Hot Stuff," "I Am Woman," "Still the One," "Three Times a Lady," "I Will Survive," and "Knock Three Times" are just a few of the more than twenty songs from the decade used in the show.
La Comedia's cast is a talented one. Digger Howard brings the right dry and serious tone for scientist Ted, and sings very well. Andy Donnelly (Chad) and Mallory Georgia Maire (Marianne) portray a previous engaged couple who unexpectedly run into each other on the ship. They get some of the juiciest '70s power ballads in the show and are great vocalists. Kari-Lee Sutherland captures the tender-hearted though dim nature of singer Jackie, and Madelynn Glenn skillfully and hilariously flip flops back and forth as Jackie's twins Ben and Lisa. Ayanna Lewis is funny as diva Levora and sings up a storm on a number of disco hits. John Dorney (Maury) and Tonya Oslack (Shirley) have great chemistry as an older married couple, and Ms. Oslack delivers lots of laughs thanks in her big act two moments ("A Fifth of Beethoven"), which must be seen to be believed. As Sister Mary Downey, Alison Moore provides both the dead-pan and over-the-top antics perfect for this very humorous role. David Thomas (Scott), Chris Kramer (Tony), and the rest of the cast provide worthwhile portrayals as well, and show themselves to be strong singers, dancers and actors.
Director/choreographer Chris Beiser delivers the perfect balance of campiness and playing it straight for this ridiculous story, as well as solid blocking and pacing throughout. His many dances delightfully capture every flavor of the 1970s. It felt like the audience took a bit of time to understand that this was a spoof, but once they did, the laughs started pouring out.
The uncredited set design centers on a double staircase with several smaller modular pieces. The limitations of a dinner theater make some of the scene transitions a bit slow, but the overall design is suitable for this show. The costume design by A.T. Jones is similar to that of the Broadway production, and is fun and period appropriate. Geoffrey D. Fishburn's lighting is capably rendered and includes some groovy disco effects.
Disaster! is not yet a known commodity to many theatergoers, but it's a clever and comedic romp, especially for adults. La Comedia has assembled a talented cast and effective direction and dances. Audiences should give in to the spoof elements and enjoy the show, along with the hot stuff served as part of the tasty buffet.
Disaster! runs through November 3, 2019, at La Comedia Dinner Theatre, 765 W Central Ave., Springboro OH. For tickets and information, call 800-677-9505 or visit www.lacomedia.com.