DISASTER!By Seth Rudetsky & Jack Plotnick
Concept created by Seth Rudetsky and Drew Geraci
Additional Material by Drew Geraci
ONSTAGE in Bedford
Director – Lon Barrera
Music Director – Kristin Spires
Stage Manager – Nicole Lugar
Choreographers – Shannon Walsh & ReEtta Roever
Set Design – Kevin Brown
Lighting Design – Kyle Harris
Costume Design – Janelle Lutz
Wig Design – Marcus Lopez & Logan Coley Broker
Sound Design – Mark Howard
Props – Connie Mauree Hay
Puppet Design – Gabriellle Grafrath
Light Board – Jorden McDonald
Sound Board – Rayven Harris
Stage Crew/Puppeteers - Gabriellle Grafrath, Jude Grafrath, Adam Livingston
Keyboard 1 – Kristin Spires
Keyboard 2 – Kurt Hilsabeck
Guitar – Russell Mirabelli
Bass – Jon Kern-Anderson
Percussion – Mark Howard
Chad – Jonathan Garcia
Scott – Trey West
Professor Ted Scheider – Jacob Rivera-Sanchez
Marianne – Sarah Dickerson
Tony – Mike Hathaway
Sister Mary Downey – Michelle Phillips
Shirley – Sherry Etzel
Maury – Doug Fowler
Levora – Jason Solis
Jackie – Rebecca Paige
Ben/Lisa - Grayson Oliver
Ensemble – Logan Coley Broker, Carlos Brumfield, Andrew "Bedpost" Friedrich, Jordon Justice,
Nancy Lopez, Courtney Mitchell, Nicole Neely
Reviewed Performance: 6/30/2017
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Seth Rudetsky is best known to me as the on-air talent for SIRIUS/XM Broadway Channel 72 with an incredible knowledge of all things Broadway and an annoying voice. He is also a brilliant pianist and songwriter and comedy writer garnering 3 Emmy nominations for his work on the Rosie O'Donnell Show. This is his first play. It played from Feb to May of 2016 on Broadway and very briefly as a benefit performance in London. London has been trying to get it back for a full West End run ever since. This production is the first production outside of NYC or London... ever. This is the first production with the new updated script being produced in this part of the country.
ONSTAGE in Bedford is a small theatre with a small stage. They usually don't produce shows with 17 people on stage at one time. This was a huge undertaking for them and I actually think this will be their crowning achievement this season.
Director Lon Barrera brings this large cast together and keeps the action moving from one side of the stage to the other throughout the length of the show. There really is no downtime in the show. As one scene ends another is starting and every scene has comedy bits and jokes and one-liners that just keep coming at you from all different directions. The true beauty of this show is how it intertwines the 34 pop numbers (yeah, 34 songs in a two hour time span) into the dialogue almost seamlessly even though these songs are written by several different people and have nothing to do with each other. Barerra's fast paced, slam-and-go staging keeps the show visually interesting all the while making great use of a static set that by itself would be a distraction except for the palette that set designer Kevin Brown chose. Think Match Game or early Price is Right and you pretty much get the idea. 1970s earth tones baby! It works and it is funny just being there.
Every single actor in the cast had the comedy timing nailed to the wall. Mike Hathaway was sleazy and pervy as the deceitful casino owner, Tony, though I think his lusting and leering should be more amplified. Jonathan Garcia as Chad (the boy who lost the girl but gets the girl back) plays the role as seriously as it can be played in a show with this much silliness and actually becomes a character the audience comes to care about.
Sherry Etzel and Doug Fowler, Shirley and Maury respectively, reflect the roles made famous in the original The Poseidon Adventure by Shelly Winters and Jack Albertson. They are an older couple celebrating his retirement and she is dying, unbeknownst to her husband. Remember that they have rated this show as PG-13 and although there is nothing really dicey, the language used by Shirley in the second act is definitely NSFW. But it is funny. Etzel has enormously funny bits of physical comedy throughout the second act and ends with a dance number that left me gasping for air I was laughing so hard. When they get to the scene where she dies after helping everybody, it made me nostalgic for those old 1970s movies. That being said, a lot of the jokes and visual gags will mean a lot more to those of us of a certain age than to millennials but there were people in the opening night audience from 11 to well over 60 and they were all laughing at something in every scene.
Michelle Phillips as Sister Mary Downey artistically portrays a nun with a seedy past. She is constantly "Torn Between Two Lovers" (the Church and Gambling), thus when she finally succumbs to the dark side that resulted with her dancing and seducing a slot machine becomes a huge tongue-swallowing, choke fest of laughter.
There was not a weak link in the cast... period. However, the two standouts for me were Jason Solis as the disco queen, Levora and young Grayson Oliver as Ben and Lisa, the twin children of lounge singer Jackie, played with exceptional timing by Rebecca Paige.
Grayson had to play a boy and a girl, usually in the same scene and with simple quick-change artistry, did so with abandon. His crowning moment came in the second act as the two kids (Oliver) were singing with their mom, Jackie (Paige). The staging was simple, elegant and comedically brilliant and elicited a "Bravo" from this reviewer. Thank you, Mr. Barrera for that.
Jason Solis entered the stage as the disco queen, Levora and his drag was so good, I did not realize that she was a he until I met him in the lobby afterward. Now, picture Levora as Gloria Gaynor and Sister Sledge wrapped up together with some Chaka Khan attitude and you have Jason's version of the disco queen. And let me tell you child... some of the notes that boy hits would make Patti LaBelle take notice. His name is firmly planted on my COLUMN Awards short list.
My only complaint with this production is a problem that ONSTAGE in Bedford's Artistic Director, Michael Winters, addressed to the audience in his curtain speech. Which was the lighting system. It's old, outdated and simply not equipped to handle a show of this magnitude. There were dark spots on stage, gaps in the colors, odd lighting angles and just not a lot of depth to the lighting design. And where was the disco ball?!?!
This usually isn't a concern when they do their smaller, one set productions but for this show it was. It especially detracted from the production numbers. Speaking of which, ReEtta Roever and Shannon Walsh's choreography was superb thought out the evening. Their dance creativity made for exciting visuals in the small space that is the theatre at Bedford Boys Ranch. The execution was just slightly off but I believe that will settle itself out by the end of this weekend.
Disaster! is a fun, funny, fabulous two hours of nostalgic silliness that absolutely NEEDS to be seen. Run, do not walk, to get tickets to this show. You will be glad you did.
Fri & Sat @ 8:PM and Sun @ 3:PM
Tickets are $24.99 and $16.99 with Star Telegram Press Pass discounts for Sunday Matinees
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