Arts & Leisure

“Disaster: The Musical” a fine catastrophe

“DISASTER: The Musical” performed at The Gem Theater in Garden Grove. (All Rights Reserved © 2019 Ron Lyon Photo)

By Thom deMartino

Hey hey! Now boarding the S.S. Barracuda for your tour of the 1970’s: please enjoy your complimentary bellbottoms, platform heels, shag carpets and Lite-Brites.

It’s something very new and very different from the award-winning One More Productions team of Damian Lorton, Nicole Cassesso and company at Garden Grove’s Gem Theater, in the form of “Disaster! The Musical”: a jukebox musical homage to the myriad disaster movies of the 70’s (complete with plot devices reminiscent of “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno” and “Piranha.”)

It’s 1979, and there’s quite a motley crew aboard the newly-christened ship Barracuda: a floating discotheque and casino, courtesy of shady real estate developer Tony Delvecchio (played with sleazy relish by Tom Patrick) … Who may or may not have cut corners on safety regulations, and conveniently has taken out a large insurance policy on the boat. Closely pursuing both Del Vecchio and her story is the persistent Times’ reporter Marianne Wilson (Brittany Gerardi), determined to get to the truth… and find her way out of covering garden parties. There’s also the dire – and ignored – warnings of impending doom for the ship from scientist and disaster expert Ted Scheider (Tad Fujioka, a last-second addition to the cast, though you couldn’t tell from his fantastic comedic/deadpan performance.)

“You’re crazy!” shouts Tony at the expert and his predictions of calamity.

“No” responds the professor, calmly. “The doctors say crazy and humorless aren’t the same thing.”

It’s no “Love Boat” either – relationships are complicated things – and there’s more than a few going on aboard the imperiled Barracuda. Chad (Race Chambers) and his buddy Scott (Marcus Vayette) have come aboard both to work, and to carouse with the ladies… Without realizing Chad’s own ex-fiance is aboard; Shirley and Maury Winters (Dee Shandera and Jon Michell), are a couple in their sunset years enjoying the cruise, but one is hiding a tragic secret; meanwhile, Jackie (Adriana Sanchez), the ship’s vivacious lounge singer, is sharing her hopes that boss/boyfriend Tony may pop the question, with her precocious twins, Ben and Lisa (both played with a rapid comedic quick-change by Megan Michell.)

ADRIAN SANCHEZ belts out a song in “Disaster: The Musical.” All Rights Reserved © 2019 Ron Lyon Photo

Rounding out the passenger manifest is radio personality and disco diva Levora Verona (Debbi Ebert), permanently attached to her beloved diminutive dog, as well as the determined and devout Sister Mary Downey (a scene-stealing Amanda Zaida Hansen), who vehemently rails against the evils of gambling: “Gambling is a sin, and you’re going to Hell” she says sweetly… but perhaps she doth protest too much, hmmm?

It’s a perfect comedic cocktail of catastrophe, just waiting to be shaken…

The Gem is kicking off its new season with a bang (or a rumble, or a tsunami) with “Disaster!”, just what 70’s fans have wanted in a jukebox musical – well, those who remember the 70’s, anyway. It’s chock-full of 1970’s classic hits, delivered with perfect timing and pace to suit the scenes; with marvelous performances by the whole cast.

Sanchez’s optimistic and engaging (pun intended) Jackie, Patrick’s oily and reprehensible Delvecchio, Shandera and Michell’s touching – sometimes slapstick – chemistry as Shirley and Maury, Gerardi’s eager and empowered Marianne … So many fantastic performances by the broad range of characters, it’s impossible to highlight them all. (Though it should be noted, an absolute fan-favorite was the adorable and hysterical Michell, alternating as the twins.)

If you’re a fan of the sprawl of disaster movies that overwhelmed the 1970’s, as well as the music, fashion and fads of the time, the rollicking and side-splitting “Disaster! The Musical” is a must-see experience – you know, without the flashbacks.

“Disaster! The Musical”, Adriana Sanchez, Tom Patrick and Tad Fujioka star in this jukebox musical homage to the cheesy disaster movies and popular music of the 1970s. Playing through March 24 at The Gem Theater, 12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA, 92840. Call 714-741-9550 x221 or e-mail for ticketing information. Some explicit language and suggestive situations.



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