Disaster! – Charing Cross Theatre

Disaster is a musical by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick featuring ‘70s disco music including, ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Hot Stuff’ and ‘Knock On Wood’. It is an onstage version of ‘70s disaster movies such as the Airport film series, Towering Inferno and Earthquake, parodying many iconic moments from each of the films. Disaster has enjoyed success both on and off-Broadway and made its UK premiere for two sold-out gala performances at the Charing Cross Theatre on 20th November 2016.

The setting of Disaster is “The Barracuda”, Tony Delvecchio’s new casino, floating on the Hudson River. Among his guests are: Jackie, a singer performing on the boat, and her two children, Ben and Lisa; Chad, a waiter for the evening; reporter Ms Marianne Wilson, who is hunting for a story around the suspect safety record of the boat; Sister Mary, who is trying to save the sinful guests from eternal damnation whilst fighting off the pull of her own sinful past; Professor Ted Scheider, who tries to save the guests from the many impending disasters; singer and once a big time star, Levora and her dog, Baby; an elderly couple, Shirley and Maury; and a wealthy couple.

Tony Delvecchio was played by Simon Lipkin (Guys and Dolls, Rock of Ages, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change). Lipkin makes the cost-cutting, lying, womanising casino owner charming and loveable, giving a true showman’s performance, and his rendition of ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’ was fantastic.

Jodie Jacobs (Rock of Ages, Carrie, Jest End) played Jackie, the gullible, not-too-bright singer looking for a new father for her twins. Jacobs has an outstanding voice, and her performances of ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘I Will Survive’ were sublime.

Young actor Bradley Riches (Annie Junior, Elf Junior, Oliver!) played both Ben and Lisa. He has a great voice, showcased beautifully in his rendition of ‘Ben’, and was hilarious switching between the twins.

Chad Rubin was portrayed by Oliver Tompsett (Guys and Dolls, Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You), a waiter at the casino who has just re-connected with his lost love, Marianne, who had stood him up at the altar. Tompsett was sensational in the role, performing a perfect opener to the show with ‘Hot Stuff’ and demonstrating his immensely powerful voice to perfection with ‘Without You’.

Marianne was played by Alice Fearn (Wicked, Into the Woods, Les Miserables), who gave an excellent portrayal as a strong career woman, particularly with ‘I Am Woman’, but then realises her love for Chad as the many disasters unfold.

Jennifer Simard (Sister Act, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Forbidden Broadway), reprising her Broadway role for this event, was hilarious as the guitar-playing nun, Sister Mary, admonishing the guests to mend their sinful ways, whilst warring with her own gambling addiction, and finally giving into this with her delightfully comic version of ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ which she sings to a slot machine.

Seth Rudetsky (The Ritz, conductor and pianist) starred in his own creation as Professor Ted, the voice of doom throughout the show, who predicts every over-the-top disaster ever featured in a ‘70s movie.

Levora was played by Sandra Marvin (Stepping Out, Showboat, Hairspray) who was superb in the role. She had an incredible voice, singing ‘Knock On Wood’ and ‘Come To Me’ brilliantly.

Sally Ann Triplet (Mamma Mia, Viva Forever, Guys and Dolls) and Paul Grunet (Oklahoma!, Kiss Me Kate, The Sound of Music) were excellent as the elderly couple, Shirley and Maury. They sang a lovely duet together of ‘You’re Still The One’.

The wealthy couple were portrayed by Drew Geraci (A Chorus Line, The Scarlet Pimpernel, La Cage aux Follies) and Ruthie Stephens (Hedwig and the Angry Itch, Les Miserables, A Little Night Music).

A particular highlight of the show was the group performance of ‘Sky High’, where the guests are expressing their anger to Tony for lying about the safety specification of his floating casino, and Chad berates Marianne about leaving him at the altar.

Disaster is a hilarious musical, a wonderful parody of disaster movies with fabulous music and a very talented cast. Clearly, all concerned had worked really hard to bring the production together and to make it the huge success it was. This performance was in partnership with MAD Trust (www.madtrust.org.uk), a charity dedicated to helping people with HIV and AIDS. We enjoyed Disaster immensely and hope to see it in the UK again soon for a longer run.

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