Pros: Some banging tunes from the 1970s and a bright cast thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Cons: The production appeared rushed and over improvised at times.
With Christmas only five weeks away, what better way to get in the mood than a musical based on that staple of festive TV, the disaster movie? As sure as a turkey will get stuffed, you will find the Poseidon Adventure in the TV schedules somewhere. Disaster! is loosely based on the 1972 film starring Gene Hackman, but merrily steals ideas from Airport, Jaws and the Towering Inferno. As the heyday of disaster movies was the 1970s, we were treated to a memorable selection of hits from the decade that style forgot.
The Charing Cross Theatre was already rocking to the sound of Chic, Sister Sledge and Sylvester when I took my seat, hoping I wouldn’t be spotted by dancers from the show. They were clearly looking for some audience participation as the stage quickly filled with ‘civilians’. Van McCoy’s disco classic The Hustle provided a great excuse to get down soul train style. It was a great way to start the show as co-creator Seth Rudetsky took the stage to explain why the show had come to London. It was the second of two shows to raise funds for HIV charity Make a Difference. With World Aids Day coming up on 1st December, it was a suitable reminder of a recently overlooked global issue.
The story began with a reassuringly screwball premise: a floating casino on the Hudson River is sitting on a land fault and is about to shift and sink the casino! But it’s ok because the Professor, played by Seth Rudetsky is on hand to warn the partygoers that disaster is afoot. There are a range of familiar characters on display, including the guitar playing nun played with relish by Jennifer Simard. We learn the good Sister is a reformed gambling addict and belts out a storming version of Never Can Say Goodbye as the casino draws her back to her old ways. The reunited lovers, Chad and Marriane are also present, as is Tony, the unscrupulous casino owner who cuts corners just to make a quick buck. The doting retired couple, Shirley and Maury also feature with the former making the ultimate sacrifice to save others (a la Shelly Winters).
The show skips through the usual disaster clichés and a lot more besides with a light script that relied heavily on improvisation. An excellent cast were on hand to fill the gaps and obviously had a great time doing it. But the real standouts were Jodie Jacobs as Jackie and Bradley Riches, who was frighteningly good at playing twins, Ben and Lisa. Inevitably, the show was contrived with songs crowbarred into an increasingly cheesy script. But, hey isn’t that really the point? This is pure entertainment that gives more than a passing nod to old style musicals; some great sing along tunes with a shedload of cheeky gags thrown in for good measure. Great fun – I loved it!
Written by: Seth Rudetsky & Jack Plotnick
Director: Jack Plotnick
Musical Director: James Taylor
Choreographer: Ashley Nottingham
Producer: Darren Murphy
Booking until: This show has now completed its run.