Diva TalkHow Five Women Triumph in Disaster!The new musical comedy offers plum roles for several Broadway favorites.
March 11, 2016
Adam Pascal's soaring rock tenor, which remains in impeccable form, may still be ringing in your ears when the cast of Disaster! take their final bow, but it is the women who are stealing this feel-good show. There are five leading ladies, and each gets her chance to shine amid the earthquakes, sharks, piranhas, tidal waves and other surrounding calamities.
I have enjoyed Rachel York’s work throughout the years—including this past summer’s Bay Street Theater production of Grey Gardens, opposite Tony winner Betty Buckley—but in this new musical comedy at the Nederlander Theatre, the former Victor/Victoria star has never been better. Cast as an air-headed lounge singer named Jackie, York has managed to find a speaking voice that perfectly complements her Farrah Fawcett-styled hair and sequined outfits, bringing dazed and confused to a whole new level. York is delivering a flawless performance, landing every joke and high note, and her final entrance, after surviving the evening’s many catastrophes, is priceless.
Tony winner Faith Prince is also in full comedic mode. Playing Brooklyn-born Shirley, Prince’s Tourette’s-like outbursts that are sprinkled throughout the second act are hysterical, drawing laugh after laugh from this writer and the entire audience. The Guys and Dolls star also brings much-needed warmth, providing the emotional core of the new musical, and she is ably abetted by Kevin Chamberlin as her loving husband, Maury. In fact, the two charm early in the evening with a touching duet of ”Still the One.’’ It should also be noted that Prince's Morse code tap routine that precedes the musical's finale is simply a triumph.
Kerry Butler is also in fine form, delivering a memorable turn as a repressed reporter whose relationship with ship waiter Chad (Pascal) is rekindled thanks to the Disaster! around her. Butler’s voice is as pure and smooth as ever, and she brings those perfect tones to numerous pop classics, including the Helen Reddy anthem ”I Am Woman.’’ Lacretta Nicole, who is cast as faded disco queen Levora, brings her own powerhouse vocals to ”Baby Hold on to Me’’ and a particularly stentorian ”Knock On Wood.’’
And, then there is Jennifer Simard, who plays a nun with a bad habit (sorry!). Whether she’s almost-inaudibly singing “The Lord’s Prayer,” demonstrating why she’s “Torn Between Two Lovers,” belting ”Never Can Say Goodbye” or strumming her guitar with abandon, Simard finds every possible comedic moment and some you wouldn’t even have thought possible. It is a scene-stealing performance—even if it is opposite a slot machine—one that should be remembered at awards time.
So, thank you to Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick for providing so many great talents with the opportunity to strut their formidable ”Hot Stuff.” It is an evening of pure laughter during a much-needed time.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to [email protected].
Senior editor Andrew Gans also pens the weekly Their Favorite Things.