This review can practically write itself. Let’s face it, there is nothing disastrous about Cockpit in Court’s current production. Of course, I am talking about Disaster! the 70’s disaster movie musical written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick and directed by Todd Pearthree. Pearthree and his production team (Music Director Michael DeVito, Technical Director Jason Randolph, Set Designer Michael Rasinski, Lighting Designer Thomas Gardner, Costumer Designer Will Crowther, Sound Designer Corey Sekulow, and Stage Manager John Chrzanowski) have put together THE smash hit of the summer.
Pearthree makes full use of the stage in both depth and width. His cast moves fluently, and nothing is stagnant. Their entrances and exits are sharp, keeping the show moving at a nice pace. Additionally, lines are delivered crisply and clearly with perfect comedic timing. This is every actor, every scene. Pearthree doubles as the show’s choreographer and once again he does not disappoint. His dancers act as a cohesive unit and are very entertaining.
On the surface it may appear that Set Designer Michael Rasinski kept things simple, but he provides plenty for Tech Director Randolph to play with. Rasinski understands that this show needs space and he provides it without making the design too minimal. This allows Randolph to work his magic. There were so many special moments and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. The fish tank was my favorite.
Costuming a retro show can be an adventure, but Crowther showed that he was up to the challenge. From the wigs to the threads, and even the groovy shoes Crowther hit the mark every time. His attention to detail down to the accessories was on point. The same should be said for Properties Master Shane Lowry. His piece selection was uniform and period.
Of all that was right with the show the one not so bright spot was the lighting. Too many times actors were in the dark, or there were large dark spaces on the stage. For a show that takes place in a casino it could have been brighter. There was a bright spot in the sound department though. Sekulow’s effects were right on cue and not overpowering. His overall balance made for easy listening and an enjoyable evening.
The man behind cooking us this lovely musical feast is Michael DeVito. As Pearthree was to the stage so DeVito is to the voices. The harmonies, counter melodies and solos were delivered beautifully. DeVito doesn’t just teach the music, he makes sure that each of his actors understand the music. There is a passion and richness behind every song that can’t be taught, it has to be felt; and DeVito ensures that his cast feel what they are singing.
Shane Lowry (Chad) and John Andrew (Scott) will flash you back to A Night at the Roxbury. These two wild and crazy guys will have you laughing throughout the show. Lowry finely shows his vocal skills cutting loose during Without You or getting mellow with Reunited.
When you play the part originally played by the author you have some big shoes to fill. Brian Jacobs portrayal of Professor Scheider filled those shoes like Cinderella. A perfect fit for the part Jacobs is nerdy, clumsy and our hero. Up against Nancy Parrish Asendorf (Jackie) Jacobs shows that he can more than hold his own during their duet. Asendorf is featured several times in the show and every time delivers a knockout performance.
Darren McDonnell (Tony) is the weasel in the chicken coop. He plays the slimy casino owner somewhere between Henry Brandon’s Barnaby Barnicle and Al Pacino’s Scarface. He was one of my favorite characters. The antithesis to McDonnell’s Tony is Maury played by Jeff Burch. He is the kind, loving, doting husband who brings civility to the chaos. His You’re Still The One (Reprise) is touching.
What do washed up singers do when they are no longer famous? Why they hit the casino to try and strike it rich. Rikki Howie Lacewell (Levora) shows that she is anything but washed up. A lovely, powerful voice with a belt that just makes you want to throw a choir robe on her. She shows that she can handle any genre you put in front of her.
Hockey fans know that at the end of the game there is the three stars awards. This show had three shining stars as well and they very much deserve to be recognized. Liam Hamilton (Ben/Lisa), Liz Boyer Hunnicutt (Shirley), and Lisa Pastella (Sr. Mary Downy) put on a performance that was AHMAAAZING, as Seth would say. Hamilton plays Ben and his sister Lisa… or was he playing Lisa and her brother Ben? Either way, this young man was great! Hunnicutt was over the top and we wanted more. Her side-splitting humor and physical comedy were to die for. She was the cherry on this comedic sundae. Pastella rounds out this trio of stars. She really showed her acting chops flipping from the subdued nun to the recovering gambler, over and over again with ease. And she has a set of pipes that would make an organ jealous.
This is a show that you won’t want to miss. With a great score, brilliant acting and the best voices this side of Motown, to miss it would be a disaster.
Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission
Disaster! plays through June 30, 2019 at Cockpit in Court in the F. Scott Black Theatre of The Robert and Eleanor Romadka College Center at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus— 7201 Rossville Boulevard, Essex MD. For tickets call the box office at (443) 840-2787 or purchase them online