“Disaster!” Unmitigated Success at the Pollard
The Pollard ends this season with a bang! “Disaster!” is an incredibly funny show; music, song and hilarity in a single package directed as well as choreographed by genius Matthew Sipress Banks. Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, with creator Drew Geraci, wrote this spoof on popular catastrophe films, gathering a stellar cast singing with flair and dancing like Fred Astaire—with a perfect grasp of comedic timing creating high-spirited merriment.
Banks cast is incredible, and each member, whether ensemble or main character has a wonderful moment of triumph; it is impossible to have a favorite! The story takes place as a new floating casino run by a shyster Tony opens to a large crowd. Tony has cut lots of corners, so behind the glitz and glitter, the boat is poorly constructed to save money. Tony is brilliantly played by Matthew Alvin Brown, revealing a humorously slick and sleazy con-man. Tony hires his girlfriend Jackie to sing, and she has brought on board her twin children, Lisa and Ben. Kara Chapman’s wonderful vocals as lounge singer Jackie are majestic, and her primary interest in marriage and a normal family life have motivated her to sing for Tony gratis. Expecting a proposal that will never come is the story of her life, and Chapman connects with the audience easily. Charlie Monnot plays Ted who is an expert on disaster, vocally forecasting doom for the gamblers; he must hide from Tony as he boards the den of inequity to assist patrons in the upcoming disaster he has predicted. Monnot skillfully reveals the humorous aspects of the scientific mind.
Emily Pace plays a young ambitious reporter, Marianne, bent upon becoming a successful career woman with an expose on the casino and the rumored sloppy construction. With great discombobulation she runs into Chad, the inventor turned waiter she jilted to maintain her career. Their love story within the modern tragi-comic circumstances of the 70’s contrasts boldly with Tony’s lechery, greed and shady shortcomings. Seth Paden is Chad, still very much in love with Marianne, although not willing to admit that he has become expert in attracting the lovely women he is supposed to be serving. Their reunion gives us an extraordinarily comic moment of embarrassment! Their chemistry is excellent. Jared Blount is another waiter on board who is Chad’s best friend; Scott tries to emulate Chad’s success with the ladies. He fails. Miserably, wonderfully, comically.
De’Vin Lewis stunningly portrays the disco-diva, Levora, hoping to win a bundle as hard times have made her destitute. Her little dog that she carries in her purse is so perfect and her astounding range in sexy dance numbers with her incredible vocals is so diva it is divine. Odra Chapman is Sister Mary singing on the pier to discourage patrons from sinking into the sin of gambling, as she dreams of cashing in big on the slot machines herself. These two actress/singers create unique characters that set the stage for caricature higher than any happy 70’s soul could imagine.
Erin Heatly plays Jackie’s twin children, Lisa and Ben. Her versatility in these roles makes the comedy sublime and we understand their mom, Jackie’s desire for a father for them. We know that she has picked the wrong guy-will she discover her mistake in time? Heatly’s comic vocals give an excellent clue.
James A. Hughes and Brenda Williams play a charming elderly couple who are still very much in love, and still ready for fun in their lives. Hughes is Maury, generous in his respect and love for his beautiful wife, and Williams is Shirley, still wanting to make her husband happy every minute she can. Sounds so sweet, yet without being in the least bit sickly sweet the two of them make one howl with laughter. And if you remember “The Poseidon Adventure” at all you won’t be able to stop!
There are four ensemble members. Not chorus members because each one has their own distinctly creative comic moment. Dakota Muckelrath, Nicole Phillips, Clayton Blair and Sierra Sikes light up the stage with dance, song and funny bits that make “Disaster!” so much fun.
The genius of Matthew Sipress Banks is revealed from two perspectives. He is a creative and intriguing director and he is also a master choreographer. As a result we have amazing performers acting, singing and moving as if they were a professional dance troupe. Add to that the smooth concise qualities found in musical direction from Todd Malicoate. Malicoate conducts a small band and performs on the piano and trombone. Second keyboard is Lisa Malicoate and she also plays trumpet. Aaron Marshall plays drums, Tristan Gfeller plays guitar and Jason Hunt plays bass. These musicians also exhibit perfect timing providing not only excellent music, but able to realize smooth performances as they accompany actors concentrating on comedic timing. The incredible teamwork in combining the various talents creates a production that is clean, crisp and dynamic.
Technically, “Disaster!” reflects another example of collaborative expertise. W. Jerome Stevenson is Stage Manager for this production and his calm deliberativeness is unveiled. Stevenson is designer of both scenes and lighting while Jared Blount is the sound and video designer. The visual and auditory support for “Disaster!” is augmented by the costumes by Michael James, flattering, functional and fabulous. Timothy Stewart’s properties are amusing in and of themselves, and in the hands of the actors they are consuming. The connection between costuming and properties is unique and comfortably engaging.
As powerful vocals fill the theatre, coupled with perfect comedic timing from an entire cast of performers revealing the zaniest aspects of their characters the audience is thrilled. Each performance calls for a standing ovation, but the audience must first pick themselves off the floor where they find themselves rolling about in mirthful spasms. Speaking of disasters, after such an event or near-event as our recent inundation, it is important to have a good laugh and “Disaster!” gives us exactly what we need.
“Disaster!” plays through June 29, 2019. Curtain is 8:00 pm Thursday through Saturday with a 2:00 pm Sunday matinee schedule. The Pollard Theatre is located at 120 West Harrison Avenue in historic downtown Guthrie, just 15 minutes down the interstate from the center of Oklahoma City. Come a little early for dinner at one of Guthrie’s fine restaurants or, for the ‘wild’ side visit The Jungle before and after the show for a cocktail. The Jungle is conveniently located directly across the street on Harrison. Visit www.thepollard.org or call the box office at 405-282-2800 for tickets and information. The box office is staffed Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and from 1:00 to 5:00 pm on Saturday. While it is usually best to avoid disasters, this “Disaster!” is one to seek head on with joy and anticipation!