Dancing to the musical number “Hot Stuff” in the current Community Little Theatre musical comedy “DISASTER!” are, from left: Connor Davis, Justin Morin, Dan Kane, Annabeth Treadwell, Alex Venturelli, and Jeff Fairfield. Bill Axell photo

Nostalgia — unlike neuralgia — isn’t a painful inflammation of the nerves, but the talented crew at Community Little Theatre in Auburn use it effectively to strike the funny bone repeatedly in their high camp musical “Disaster.”

Even if you don’t remember the ’70s or never lived through them, you’ve likely seen them in reruns and late-night movies, and heard the decade’s music. In CLT’s raucous, high-energy send-up, sight gags, word play and none-too-subtle cultural references deliver a most laughable plot using the soundtrack of the disco decade. What “Sharknado” did to “Jaws,” “Disaster-the musical” does for the 1970’s cinematic catastrophe flicks like “Earthquake” and “Poseidon Adventure.”

The Seth Rudetsky/Jack Plotnik parody keeps a host of caricature characters literally rockin’ and reelin’ across the stage.

From the opening “Hawaii Five-0” theme, a stellar orchestra directed by Paul Caron backs a string of songs that prompts laughs at every turn. The terrific, large cast, a trademark of outstanding musicals at CLT, is more than up to the task of bringing the many hits of the ’70s back into our lives with humor and skill.  It is truly delightful to behold all the wonderful local talent that produces such entertaining live theater in the L-A area.

Act 1 introduces us to Tony Delvecchio (Dan Kane) owner of the newly constructed “Barracuda Casino,” a floating gambling nightclub moored in New York harbor. It quickly becomes obvious that Tony is the personification of the predatory fish known for its flashy appearance and ferocious behavior for which the casino is named. Kane milks his disreputable and despicable persona with hilarious disdain for everyone around him. But comeuppance is coming.

As a tsunami of employees, patrons and opponents of the casino gather for the grand opening, a geologist/disaster expert, Professor Ted Scheider (Gregory Judd), tries to explain without success to Tony that the lives of all aboard are in danger. Meanwhile, a nun, Sister Mary Downy (Sophie Messina), has come to do God’s work in proclaiming the sinful nature of the gaming establishment. And Marianne Wilson (Danielle Eaton) is a reporter convinced that Tony is a scam artist who can be brought down by the power of the press. More about them later.


And that’s just some of what develops before, well, disaster strikes.

As Act 2 opens, we see dark humor become darker and even more laughable as we come to better know the denizens of this floating gambling mecca. Imperturbable in their quest for thrills and frivolity, they have ignored the warnings from the man of science and the woman of God and are now caught in the aftermath. It becomes evident that destruction from the impending earthquake has been magnified by Tony’s financial straits; he has cut corners in his construction of the casino leaving it ripe for catastrophe.

Disaster has overtaken the unsuspecting passengers, swamped the boat and, therefore, as with all good spoofs, provided great material for humor as the many characters fight for survival amid song and madcap action.

As mentioned above, several of the characters prove pivotal to the plot and the humor, offering ’70’s songs unique to the situation.

Eaton, as “Ms.” Marianne Wilson, is a Times reporter for social events who sees a scoop in her future. Chad (Justin Morin) was once left at the alter by Marianne and is now a caterer to the grand opening event. Now the star-crossed lovers are “Reunited” by fate, and their interactions reveal their stormy past.

Judd, as professor Ted Scheider, is haunted by the death of his wife on their honeymoon. He has made it his quest to warn of impending natural disasters wherever they threaten the unsuspecting public, bringing a wo… wo… wondrous element to the classic “Feelings.”


Messina, as Sister Mary Downey, has come to evangelize and protest the presence of the gambling den of iniquity; and perhaps come to grips with her own gambling addiction, offering up “Torn Between Two Lovers.”

But other characters also keep the laughs and songs coming.

Maury and Shirley (John B. Nutting and Renee Davis), a recently retired couple out for a lavish fling, act like high school kids, rekindling in Marianne her faith in relationships and offering up “You’re Still the One.”

Levora (Ashleigh St. Pierre) is the discarded disco diva trying to project an affluence and celebrity that is no longer hers. Hoping to win big at the slots, she superstitiously tries to “Knock on Wood.”

Jackie (Jennifer Fox) and her 11-year-old twins Ben and Lisa (Ansley Watson in a dual role) are trying to remain a family. Ditsy Jackie, who has a checkered marital past, has agreed to perform in the casino nightclub for free because she’s convinced Tony wishes to marry her, “probably.” Ben and Lisa, in an almost exhausting number of appearances a la Clark Kent and Superman, are never seen together . . . until disaster forces one to save the other. In a hilarious sequence with mother Jackie, Ben and Lisa bring down the house with a rendition of “When Will I Be Loved.”

And Scott (Alex Venturelli) is Chad’s co-worker in the catering event for the grand opening. Seeking to learn how to approach available ladies in a suave manner, Scott stumbles and bumbles every opportunity to humorous effect.


Each of these characters takes the spotlight with great physical comedy and a rollicking litany of outstanding vintage songs. The wealth of talent among them shines. They make the most of the fun afforded them in playing serious songs for laughs, often because of the placement of the songs into incompatible situations.

And like a punchline that completes a shaggy dog story, you can almost predict when and what will cause the cast to break into song.

Two good examples:

Professor Ted, after recounting the horrific death of his bride Wo Ching-Li, who accidentally plunged into the Mount Kakakia volcano on their honeymoon, joins Chad and Marianne in a syrupy rendition of “Feelings,” in which Chad has the delicious opportunity of sending up the “Wo, wo, wo, feelings” part in the song.

After the deadly earthquake has subsided, Chad and a wealthy passenger together conduct burials at sea: Chad for his close friend and co-worker Scott, and the wealthy passenger for his wife. With veritable ghoulish glee, the wealthy passenger (Walks Tall Keith) and Chad croon “Three Times a Lady” with great comedic timing and flair.

Now THAT is camp.


With a great ensemble group providing vocal support and nifty dance numbers, the cast is made to seem even larger, as members fill more than one role to give the appearance of a big gathering aboard the ill-fated craft.

Costumes by Debbie Mansur appropriately reflect the gaudy, tacky as well as the gradual deterioration of the beleaguered passengers’ appearance in the wake of all the destruction.

Lighting by Danny Gay and crew, and sound by sound designer Makenzie LeBlanc and sound engineer Noah Keneborus, bring disaster effects to life and clarity to all the vocals.

Credit for the many clever and whimsical props belong to Colleen Keith and the set décor crew, among whom are many of the actors also on stage. Space doesn’t permit mention of everyone involved here, but the cross-functional nature of all concerned in this fun and frantic production is truly remarkable. If the energy and talent generated on stage as well as behind the scenes could be bottled, there would surely be an infinite supply to share.

Performances for “Disaster” at the Community Little Theatre, 30 Academy St., Auburn, will run Thursday through Saturday, April 14, 15 and 16, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 17, at 2 p.m.

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