Disaster – A 70’s Disaster Movie Musical
Charing Cross Theatre
20 November 2016
Any film fans my age would remember the name Irwin Allen, an American television, documentary and film director and producer, who tapped into the public’s love of a good disaster film. During his career, he produced a string of blockbusters including The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, The Swarm, When Time Ran Out, Flood, Fire!, Cave-In!, The Night The Bridge Fell Down – well I’m sure you get the idea. These films would often have big all-star casts – The Towering Inferno boasted Fred Astaire, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain and O J Simpson amongst its cast.
Fast forward to 2012 and Broadway’s Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick present the initial run of Disaster! (Note the exclamation mark!), a musical that would incorporate all of the best elements and improbable circumstances from some of Irwin Allen’s greatest films in a disco-driven musical comedy tribute. Disaster! would finally open on Broadway this year and this was London’s turn to experience Rudetsky and Plotnick’s own unique brand of theatrical mayhem, as the Make A Difference Trust presented Disaster! in concert, as a one night only fundraiser at the Charing Cross Theatre.
Much like Priscilla, Queen Of the Desert, Disaster! incorporates a wonderful disco score into its comic plot. Songs like Hot Stuff, Torn Between Two Lovers, Knock On Wood, I Am Woman, Daybreak, I Will Survive, Ben, and many others incorporate seamlessly into the onstage carnage.
Having assembled an all-star West End cast, this event went way beyond a concert ending up being a near fully staged production with imaginary sets, non-existent water, an abundance of rats and two dodgy looking sharks. Seth Rudetsky playing The Professor and Jennifer Simard playing Sister Mary Downy reprised their Broadway roles whilst Oliver Tompsett, Simon Lipkin, Sally Ann Triplett, Sandra Marvin, Jodie Jacobs, Alice Fern, Bradley Riches, Paul Grunert, Mark Anderson, Chris Warner Drake, Drew Geraci and Ruthie Stephens literally blew the lid off the intimate Charing Cross Theatre.
This was a performance littered with some of the most wonderful performances you could ever hope for. Jennifer Simard’s gambling addicted nun was a pure delight, with a burning desire for slot machines, she instinctively switches from a straight-laced dour nun into a slot machine hussy in an instant. Simon Lipkin once again showed that he is the King of West End musical theatre comedy, with his take on Tony, the debauched, sleazy and far too confident owner of the Barracuda, a floating casino, discothèque and deathtrap.
Sally Ann Triplett more than shows her comic chops as Shirley, who beset with Tourettes, does her level best to literally tap her troubles away in the second act. Oliver Tompsett and Alice Fern are perfectly suited as Chad and Marriane who are reunited aboard the Baracuda before being plunged into nightmare after nightmare. Jodie Jacobs was superb as brassy broad Jackie, and Sandra Marvin as divine diva Levora were utter perfection.
I also have to take my hat off to Bradley Riches who presented one of the show’s highlights playing twins Ben and Lisa on stage at the same time. Tacky, twisted, but with dead on comic-timing, I’d watch out for this future star of the West End stage.
James Taylor’s band on the night deserve top marks. On stage throughout they pumped through a staggering array of 70’s schock (oops I meant classics) and it was incredibly hard to not get your groove on throughout.
Seth Rudetsky – Broadway’s ultimate musical theatre nerd deserves full marks for not only co-writing this disaster (oops for writing Disaster!) and performing as the Professor. Together with Jack Plotnik, who also directed the show, they have taken the magic of Irwin Allen’s great films and created one of the most hilarious onstage spoof-homages you are ever likely to see.
There is no doubt in my mind that Disaster! has everything needed to be a success in the West End. Judging from the audience reaction I would have thought it might already be on the cards!
Disaster! was presented as a fun raiser for the Make a Difference Trust.
Photos: Jamie Scott Smith