Those of us of a certain age remember with fondness the big budget disaster movies of the 1970s. Who can forget sitting in a cinema the first time the seats began to shake in Earthquake? Or us urging the heroic Steve McQueen to save everyone in Towering Inferno and wishing that Gene Hackman had enough faith to survive The Poseiden Adventure?
Someone else with a love for the era is American comedian, actor and composer, Seth Rudetsky who, together with actor and writer, Jack Plotnick, created the Broadway hit, Disaster!
And, for one day only, this hilarious spoof musical, a pastiche of the decade’s all-star action thrillers, yesterday brought nostalgia and rib-tickling, eye-watering laughs to London’s Charing Cross Theatre.
The two shows, which were raising cash for the Make A Difference charity, were a sellout and rightly so. It’s one of the funniest and most inventive comedies to play in the West End – ever. It would be a disaster if it didn’t return to our shores for a proper run.
Some of the show’s New York stars made the crossing and they were joined by London’s most exciting talent who were working on their day off.
They couldn’t wait to put on the disco dynamite fashions of the 1970s – slashed-to-the-naval shirts, stacked heels and shiny flares for the guys and teeny, tiny, sequinned minis for the girls – and book their passage on the doomed Barracuda, a floating casino and discotheque run by a seedy, selfish, slippery eel called Tony (imagine James Brolin in his heyday).
Yes, we’re back on board a floating timebomb which is moored to a pier that has been built over a precarious faultline (natch). Too much disco dancing and the vibrations will cause an earthquake of catastrophic proportions..inevitably followed by that disaster movie sequel – a tsunami.
At the matinee, to get everyone into the ‘70s vibe, we had pre-show music from the era. Sister Sledge, Earth, Wind & Fire, KC & The Sunshine Band, Michael Jackson, Chic, and more.
The audience were up on stage joining in the dances. It was Saturday Night Fever all over again and we were in Seventh Heaven.
Eventually everyone returned to their seats and Disaster! began with hot stuff Oliver Tompsett (Guys & Dolls), playing rugged hero Chad, giving it the full monty….for about a minute. Oh no, disaster struck.
Plotnick and Rudetsky came on stage to announce technical problems and, together with their American co-star, comic actress Jennifer Simard, the trio entertained with anecdotes until the show was good to go.
Then it was full steam ahead for two hours of madcap hilarity, Airplane! style, that referenced all the great disaster movies and their stock characters.
Womaniser and failed games designer Chad had wheedled his way on board through his nerdy best buddy, the hapless, tongue-tied waiter Scott (Mark Anderson). Chad wants to forget being dumped at the alter and is out hunting for ladies.
Rudetsky played a tweedy disaster expert who tried, unsuccessfully to make Simon Lipkin’s rug-chested, medallion-man casino boss, close down and evacuate the ship.
Tony has cut corners to bring in big profits at the Barracuda. There are no fire doors in the galleys and the ship is well over capacity with party-goers. He’s even stringing along the dumb blonde cabaret singer, Jackie, to make her work for free.
Lipkin, an effortless-funny comic actor, milks the role for every laugh (at one stage combing his hairy chest) and it’s a towering inferno of a performance.
On board tonight is a nun with a gambling habit (Sister Act and Shrek star Simard) who tells everyone they’re going to hell for gambling while unable to resist the devil in a slot-machine.
Our emotions are tugged by loved-up wrinklies Shirley and Maury (Sally Ann Triplett and Paul Grunert) who are celebrating 35 years of happy marriage and retirement – so you just know something bad must be heading their way.
Sandra Marvin (Showboat, Chicago and Hairspray) is the flashy disco diva, Levora and Alice Fearn plays Marianne, the hard-bitten investigative journo looking for a story and forever love.
Singer Jackie (Jodie Jacobs from Rock of Ages, Evita) has brought her twins, Ben and Lisa, on board, and young actor Bradley Riches brings the house down playing both roles.
Will anyone get out alive when disaster strikes and the ship turns turtle? Will the heroic, rugged Chad save the day and the girl? Will the cowardly Tony get his comeuppance? Will Sister Mary give in to temptation? Will the sharks, piranhas and giant rats finish off the survivors? All this and more in this gloriously funny comedy.
I can’t wait for (Another) Disaster! to hit the West End.
Disaster! The madcap Broadway spoof of 1970s disaster-thriller movies, brought convulsive laughter to audiences at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. We await the sequel.