If you’re going to take the time to read this review, please first take a look at the Make A Difference Trust – an amazing non-profit that uses the stage as a way of fighting HIV & AIDs across the world. Seeing performers come on stage and entertaining individuals for hours on end all in the name of charity will always be nothing short than an inspiring occasion, and if you feel able and motivated to donate, then please do.
Disaster!’s UK premiere, a one-day, double-bill fundraising extravaganza at the Charing Cross Theatre, was originally conceived as a semi-rehearsed sing-a-long, with actors onstage and simply entertaining audiences through hilarious skits and moments. What emerged, however, was something as close to West End slickness as could be conceived – actors nailing lines, gags and intensely choreographed sequences with relative ease. Nothing less than a joy – all made in the name of helping others.
The plot is as farcically contrived as it needs to be – a floating casino, resting on a delicate fault line, triggers an unprecedented earthquake, tidal wave, explosion and a variety of other calamities – the titular ‘disaster’ that takes the lives of a variety of cast members in increasingly surreal and hilarious skits. Add in a dose of romance and some nice jibes at religious fundamentalism and you’re good to go. There’s little to look for beyond the simple, pedestrian plotline because fundamentally, it’s the exact sort of plot that allows the performers to have a great time
It’s all done with the energy and flare that a musical based on 70s anthems has to contain. Though the performers are all fantastic, there are certainly a few standouts – Jennifer Simard’s Sister – a nun torn between her love of gambling and her love of humanitarian aid, steals every scene with devilish ease, while Bradley Riches, a young performer, tackles a multi-role part with an ease few actors (even those multiple decades his senior) could manage.
It’s a shame that Disaster! had such a shortlived run at the Charing Cross, given just how exuberantly successful it ended up being. Creator and performer Seth Rudetsky said he conceived the show out of a desire to simply make theatre and entertain audiences with his friends, and this pure love letter to theatre has a purity within it that makes it entirely watchable and memorable. If you want the chance to laugh, dance and sing for a full two hours, then Disaster may, at some stage if it returns to the UK, be the show to watch.