Disaster! Feels So Good at MusicalFare

A pretty buttoned up reporter. A nightclub owner with daddy issues. A ditzy disco diva and her twin children. A nun with a gambling problem. What happens when they meet on a poorly constructed off-shore casino with a problematic pier? It’s sure to be a Disaster!  Disaster!, the brain-child of Broadway divo Seth Rudetsky, is making its WNY premier at MusicalFare Theatre and it’s a hoot. It’s a jukebox musical with ‘70s tunes and satirical nod to all the disaster films that kept us going to movie theatres (remember those?) before we headed off to Uncle Sam’s to dance the night away on the light floor.

The story pretty simple: Tony wants to make a bundle on a floating casino so he cuts some corners on the whole safety thang. His lady friend Jackie will be the lounge singer as long as she keeps her kids out of trouble. He hires a waiter with the moves and his friend who aspires to be the other waiter with moves and they welcome passengers like Maury and Shirl who just want to have a little fun. Of course, a local nun is convinced there’s onboard gambling so she meets guests at the dock with a cheerful “you’ll burn in hell” message. And there’s scientist on board who knows that too much tango hustling can cause tidal waves if you “Knock On Wood” too many times. Of course.

Well, if the story sounds a little thin, the killer list of fun and familiar tunes more than makes up for it. So does this sparkling (and large) cast. Stand outs are Kelly Copps as Jackie the singer. She softens her speaking voice to an impish whisper (think of Georgette on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) but boy, she’s at full-power when she sings “Saturday Night” and “I Will Survive.”  Ricky Needham is Chad the waiter, sporting a wig that looks pretty much like the hair I had in my high school senior photo. He’s shakin’ his groove thing until he runs into his ex and then the sparks and sequins fly. He does a fabulous job on the Jigsaw hit “Sky High.”  Kevin Craig is the scientist who can prove that disaster is coming and I was laughing out loud at his ‘balance beam’ walk to “Nadia’s Theme.”  Gabriella Jean McKinley is the disco queen (with her designer doggie-in-a-bag) poured into spandex and doing a fabulous job with my fave tune from ’74 “Come to Me.” Emily Yancey is a riot as the nun, and Arin Lee Dandes – everyone’s favorite eternal child – is amazing as Jackie’s twins. Yes, she plays both kids with some theatre magic and sleight of hand/s. You just have to see it. Jon May and Jennifer Mysliwy were adorable as sweethearts Maury and Shirl and their ‘bump’ to Orleans’ “Still the One” took me back to a high school dance.

Directed by Randy Kramer with Robin Barker’s choreography, every moment of Disaster! Is replete with a sparkle, sass, site gags, and tongue-in-cheek bits that were more than fine. The sisters Drozd captured the era with point perfect hair, makeup and styles (my arches tensed all over again at the site of all those platform shoes), and Chris Cavanagh’s set, lighting projection and sound designs took us back to a shinier, glittery time. Theresa Quinn and the band pulled it all together with a great hit list of tunes. I knew every word. And I sang along with absolutely no shame.

I loved the humor, the details, and all that great music. Disaster! Is a success! Get there before it all goes down May 14. And yes, I wish I still had my red leather cork-platform sling backs to wear.

Disaster! runs a little over two hours with an intermission. I love MusicalFare’s clever and informative pre-show videos when I can hear them and I still miss a real paper playbill, but since I heard a hilarious take on Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” you’re forgiven this time.