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Disaster! creators Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick. Photo: Broadway World
By Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick
Directed by Emily Trinkle & Allen Platt
Review by Brian Kennedy
Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.
Thanks to a strong ensemble and appropriately over-the-top performances, Disaster! is clearly the most hilarious show Clarksville Little Theatre has put on in quite a while.
Disaster! Is a sendup of the disaster films that got moviegoers in a frenzy during the 1970s. Those who haven’t seen any of those movies needn’t worry, though. The show is hilarious whether or not people know the clichés that are being spoofed.
This musical, complete with many period pop songs, is set in the late 1970s on a new casino boat that may or may not be a safe place to gamble. Eventually, like the title suggests, many disasters will happen, some at the same time, leading to many characters from different backgrounds having to deal with various secrets as well as the natural disasters taking place.
Of the many entertaining storylines that occur throughout, Sister Mary’s (Jenna Ryan) is the most fun to watch. On the surface, she is a prototypical nun expounding to casino goers about the sins of gambling. Ryan’s matter-of-fact, tone and deadpan expressions provoke great laughter from the audience.
Later, though, Ryan loses the deadpan for hilarious confusion in “Torn Between Two Lovers,” the perfect song for this scene, which Ryan performs very well. This confusion goes further in “Never Can Say Goodbye,” when Ryan lustfully dances all over a Hawaii-Five-O slot machine. It was, by far, the most memorable moment in a wonderful performance.
Sister Mary’s story was fun but watching the other characters was also a delight. Marianne (Jennifer Allen), not only was the best overall singer of the ensemble but had to take her character, a career-focused news reporter, the most distance, especially after seeing her old flame Chad (Chris Wagner) on the boat. Allen handles this task well and, also, has great chemistry with Wagner.
Meanwhile, Shirley (Holly Smelson) is extremely funny when her physical condition, which involves shouting random phrases and some over-the-top strutting around, worsens as the disasters take shape. Smelson’s chemistry with her husband Maury (Craig Nolan Highley) is also wonderful. Their duet on “Still the One” was adorable.
While the aforementioned characters were great in their individual moments, the entire ensemble was just awesome, especially in the second act as catastrophes begin to pile up. The action moves at the appropriate quick pace with very funny moments, and “Sky High,” sung by surviving ensemble members, was the strongest overall performance of the night. Without a doubt, all of the cast members had plenty of fun with this show.
The only minor problem with Disaster! Was the clunky opener “Hot Stuff,” where the ensemble members moved around the stage timidly when the song requires the opposite. The ensemble also did not project, making it hard to hear them even in the front row. However, this may have been due to nerves as this was the first moments of the first show.
Disaster! Is a very funny musical that fans of the disaster genre can watch and laugh. For those that aren’t fans of the genre, there is still plenty with which to be entertained. Go see this show.
September 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 @ 8:00PM
September 16 @ 2:00PM
For tickets, please call the box office at 812.283.6522
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 E. Montgomery Avenue
Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.