From The Buffalo News - 4/16/23
By Melinda Miller
MusicalFare's 'Disaster!' is an homage to the '70s
“Disaster!,” the musical happily destroying the MusicalFare stage now through May 14, is an irreverent homage (both figurative and literal) to the music and movies of the 1970s. Remember the 1970s? When disco was king and disaster films ruled at the box office?
Yes, those ’70s – the decade owned by Donna Summer and Irwin Allen, full of music made for dancing and celebrity-filled casts collected for chaos. Hard to believe it has been half a century since the Poseidon flipped on Shelley Winters and Newman and McQueen battled that Towering Inferno, but here we are.
Now “Disaster!” brings it all back, smartly muting the flames and flooding in favor of a rollicking dance mix and melodramatically riotous mayhem and romance. The action is set on a cruise ship-turned-casino whose cash-strapped owner has cut corners everywhere – except on the aquarium full of piranhas. What could go wrong?
One place director Randy Kramer went very right was in putting together the large cast of triple-threat performers who deliver nearly three dozen hits from way-back-when in ways we’ve never seen before. Playwrights Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick have a blast using songs like “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Knock Three Times,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “25 or 6 to 4” and many more as unexpectedly campy dialogue, and these actors are relentless in making it work.
While there isn’t a sour note in the bunch, there are some standouts: Ricky Needham, as a toned-down version of his early season character in Kavinoky’s “Rock of Ages,” is just getting better and better, especially in a hysterically heart-wrenching version of Nilsson’s “Without You.” Gabriella Jean McKinley, so powerful in Ujima’s “Toni Stone,” swings for the fences again as Levora, a Tina Turner-Donna Summer combo with a voice to match.
It's also clear we don’t see enough these days of Kelly Copps and Jennifer Mysilwy, whose song, dance and comedic chops all earn the spotlight, and, frankly, I will go to anything that features Arin Lee Dandes, who gets special props in this show for playing a pair of twins.
Rounding out the cast: Kyle Bassett-Baran as “the bad guy,” Kevin Craig (fresh from his great one-man show at Second Generation), the versatile Alex Anthony Garcia, sometime “Golden Girl” Michael Gilbert-Wachowiak, Stevie Jackson and Kristen-Marie Lopez, both seen this season in “Beehive,” and MusicalFare regular Jon May.
Also: Maria Pedro and Emily Yancey, as two very different women who are “torn between two lovers,” and Bob Mazierski and Jenny McCabe in about half-a-dozen roles each.
If ever there was a decade worth spoofing, it was the 1970s, and it’s “Still the One.” “Disaster!” leaves you laughing and may even make you feel like dancing (one song that somehow didn’t make it into the show!).