The Backstage Theater Company’s production of Disaster! The Musical opened last night with a bang. Literally! The moment actor Jon Livi, playing the musical’s dastardly protagonist Tony DelVechio, storms down the center aisle, alerting the audience of the location of the building’s exits in case of an emergency, you know you’d better buckle up your seat belts because you are going to be in for a bumpy, but exceedingly entertaining, ride.
Disaster! The Musical is an comedic homage to popular disaster movies from the 1970s. Written by Seth Rudetsky and set aboard a cruise ship docked in a New York City harbor in the year 1979, the musical comedy premiered at the New York City’s Triad Theater in 2012.
Farmingdale’s production, which was directed by Brad Frey, weaves together various implausible storylines that converge on the doomed cruise ship, which is being commandeered by the villainous Tony, who is determined to flaunt minimal safety standards in order to fleece passengers out of millions of dollars. Each plot and subplot is punctuated by nostalgic popular songs from the eccentric decade that brought us pet rocks, lava lamps and platform shoes. Colleen Lamberti, who plays Tony Del Vechio’s long-suffering cabaret singing girlfriend Jackie, belts out a slew of crowd-pleasing hits such as Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” The Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night,” and Linda Ronstadt’s “When Will I Be Loved.”
Like the 1970s disaster movies that inspired it such as The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, Jaws and Earthquake, Disaster! thrives on adrenaline. The pace of the Backstage Theater’s production of Disaster is somewhere between frenetic and hyperactive with the solid ensemble of performers careening from one literal disaster to another. All of the action is made more engaging by the musical’s wonderfully groovy soundtrack. The costumes and set design reflect the quirky and outrageous sensibility of the 1970s, and the performers are all up to the task of delivering zany and memorable impressions of their characters. Hannah Ibrahim did a good job playing a set of twins named Ben and Lisa respectively, as did Michelle Passik, who played a nun with a few hidden vices, Matthew Hansson and Amber Masullo as a pair of former lovebirds, Austin Adriano as Professor Scheider, and Staci Ertel as a boisterous passenger.
If you are in the mood for a fun night full of music and laughter, check to Disaster! The Musical. It will be playing tonight Friday, April 12 at 8 pm and tomorrow April 13 at 8pm in the Little Theater in Roosevelt Hall on Farmingdale’s campus.