ECT Laughs At ‘Disaster!’

When a writer/producer creates a musical comedy and titles it “Disaster!” one might assume he was asking for trouble.

In a life-saving tap dance are passengersld by ShirleySelle, center), Ted Schneider (Zach Rivers left) and Levora Verona (Brenna Williams, right) I n the Elkhart Civic TDisaster!”

The Elkhart Civic Theatre production of  “Disaster!.” which opened a three-weekend run Friday evening at the Bristol Opera House, got just what it was asking for and then some!

Assembled by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick in 2012,  ”Disaster!” has a score made up of familiar pop music from the 1970s and a script that touched every major screen disaster film of that era.

That combination, in addition to an exaggerated comedic performance style, makes for about two hours of non-stop fun that requires no serious attention to plot or character but allows the audience to laugh out loud at every outrageous situation.

Marianne Wilson (Mimi Bell, left) helps Lisa (Eddie Bell) get her self-esteem in the Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “Disaster!”

It begins when Tony Del Vecchio (John Shoup), the definitely sleazy owner of a, floating casino, the Barracuda, anchored in the Hudson River, invites reporter Marianne Wilson (Mimi Bell) on board. She accepts, hoping to get a scoop on his nefarious dealings.

What she gets instead is a meeting with Chad Rubik (Preston Reddell), a gone-but-not-forgotten boyfriend now employed on the Barracuda, and a wild variety of passengers and performers, including Professor Ted Scheider (Zach Rivers), a disaster expert who warns dire things for the ship

Others on board with a wide variety of hidden problems are: Sister Mary Downey (Susan South), a guitar-playing nun with a secret passion; Shirley and Maury Summers (Rachel Raska Selle, Clarence Hogan), celebrating his retirement;  Jackie Noelle (Bethany Salvador), ship lounge singer, mother of twins Ben (Eddie Bell) and Lisa (also Eddie Bell!) and hopeful of a proposal from Tony; and Levora Verona (Brenna Williams), an aging disco star with her beloved dog Baby.

The 10-member ensemble portray socialites, employees and stowaways, all increasingly hysterical as disaster follows disaster and rescue seems impossible.

The cast includes some excellent solo voices in addition to blending well as a chorus.

Mimi Bell has a warm and soaring soprano and is very sympathetic as she uncovers her inner self (“I Am Woman”) and in duets with Reddell’s equally impressive baritone.

Sister Mary Downey (Susan South) fights a loosing battle with her gambling addiction in the Elkhart Civic Theatre production of “Disaster!”

South’s conflicted sister, torn between her religious calling and her gambling addiction, is a solid comic turn and one to which the audience reacts at each entrance. Her connection to the slot machine obviously rang a bell! (Pun intended.)

Eddie Bell’s quick change expertise, especially in the segment when he/she holds on to the overturned lifeboat, is a highlight and John Shoup’s oily interpretation of the deceitful casino boss is right out of Damon Runyon.

Shoup designed the set with special rigging by Adam and Michael Greene and Kevin Egelsky. Strobe lighting is used.

Vocal director Liesl Bell also serves as orchestra director and pianist. Completing the excellent orchestra are Miriam Houck and Brenda Summers, keyboards; David Robey, bass guitar, and Mel Moore, percussion.

Director Brock Butler and assistant April Sellers held nothing back as the Barracuda and its company experiences a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a tidal wave, rats, piranhas and sharks, all to appropriate music of the 70s.

 

Have to admit it’s very difficult not to sing along or, at least, hum a little. Nothing brings back memories — even disastrous one — like melodies!

“DISASTER!” plays Friday through Sunday and Nov. 16-17 at the Bristol Opera House, on SR 120 in Bristol. For performance times and reservations, call 848-4116 from noon to 5 p.m. weekdays.

 

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