FOR A DISASTROUSLY GOOD TIME AT ACTS THEATRE!!! GO SEE – DISASTER: THE MUSICAL!!!

SHORT TAKE

Disaster: the Musical opens (tonight) January 24, 2020 at ACTS Theatre, [GET YOUR TICKETS HERE]  through Groundhog Day (February 2, 2020) with evening performances at 7:30 and matinees at 3. It is a hilarious take off of disaster genre movies, especially The Poseidon Adventure.

WHO SHOULD GO

With slight reservations – anyone. Aside from a few off-color, stress related words, which are difficult to hear amidst loud music, ensemble conversation and special effects noise, the play is appropriate for any age which does not mind loud sounds and music.

LONG TAKE

I love disaster movies. The excitement, the drama, the special effects, the sappy songs. I even love the formula. Meet an unlikely ensemble group, usually: an older married couple, a sick child, a sleazy selfish person who will get their comeuppance, a religious figure, a dog, an entertainer, and at least one estranged couple who will re-bond through trauma. (SEE MY ARTICLE “CATACLYSM AS MARITAL THERAPY” HERE). They will then endure escape room dynamics to survive fire (Towering Inferno), water (Poseidon Adventure), predatory animals (Jurassic Park), rickety climbing structure (various), etc and combinations of the aforementioned, all while evading whatever caused the calamity to begin with: earthquake, fire, tsunami, escaped dinosaurs, hurricane, whatever.

As preposterous as some of these scenarios may sound they have been a guilty pleasure of movie goers for generations. I, for one, once watched The Poseidon Adventure (the first one with Gene Hackman – yes, I’m that old) in the movie theater IN the front row at MIDNIGHT (when the tsunami hit the ship). They are a hoot.

There’s something to be said for the opportunity to reestablish priorities – walking out of a theater knowing that while your dog may have eaten your only copy of your income tax return and the hot water heater is on the fritz, at least you don’t have to ride out the zombie apocalypse in the basement of a burning bar (Shaun of the Dead) or survive an erupting volcano in a collapsed mine shaft (Dante’s Peak). I mean – count your blessings!!

The grand-daddies of disaster, the majordomos of misadventure, and the comptrollers of catastrophe, were: Airport (1970 – with a zillion sequels coming out in the latter part of that decade), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (1974), The Hindenburg (1975), and Meteor (1979).

And following in those esteemed footsteps is DISASTER: THE MUSICAL. Mostly capitalizing on The Poseidon Adventure, this hilarious parody leans heavily on 1970’s songs, costumes and the “disco culture” (such as it was) pervasively popular at the time. Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick for Only Make Believe’s fund raiser in 2011, the show was a hit and crept up from Off-Off Broadway to Broadway within a few years.

(And FYI Only Make Believe is a non-profit organization that creates and performs interactive theatre for children in hospitals, care facilities, and special education programs, operating under the core resolve that encouraging a child’s imagination is a vital part of the healing and learning process.)

Our local performers at ACTS Theatre throw themselves into the Disaster characters with deliciously shameless enthusiasm. As directed by veteran Kris Webster, no stops are unpulled and no scenery left unchewed.

ABBA style, the music is cobbled together from popular songs of the era. Top 40 tunes like: “Knock on Wood”, “Hot Stuff”, “A Fifth of Beethoven” and “Three Times a Lady”, are used in cleverly comic ways NEVER originally intended. I don’t want to spoil anything for you so won’t tell you all the songs, BUT when you go see Disaster, play a game – see what familiar 1970’s hit song might be coming up next, depending on the circumstances at hand.

The cast is terrific and, despite the weird circumstances in which the songs appear, belt out these archaic tunes with an irresistible gusto that makes singing along difficult to resist. Much like the source material for this comic catastrophe, the cast list is studded with an abundance of familiar talented faces.

Zac Hammons (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels SEE REVIEW HERE) is first on, setting the stage figuratively with a prelude, then appearing often to literally set and reset the stage, athletically bullying into shape the plethora of scenarios needed for the play.

Jordan Gribble (The Giver and the scene stealing father from Bye Bye Birdie SEE REVIEW HERE), is lovelorn Chad.

Mark Hebert (Arsenic and Old Lace SEE REVIEW HERE and Mamma Mia SEE REVIEW HERE) is Scott, Chad’s clueless friend.

Kane Todd (Mamma Mia, Bye Bye Birdie) is Professor Ted Scheider, the disaster expert.

Taylor Novak-Tyler (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Clue SEE REVIEW HERE) is Marianne, Chad’s old girlfriend.

Robert Goodson (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Clue) is Tony Delvechio, the slimy casino owner everyone loves to hate.

Kelly Rowland (Arsenic and Old Lace, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change SEE REVIEW HERE) is Jackie, the entertainer and single mother with twins.

Ana-Claire Perkins hilariously bounces back and forth as both of Jackie’s twins, Ben and Lisa.

Markie Hebert (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Spamalot SEE REVIEW HERE) is Sister Mary Downy, a well meaning nun who has her own reasons for not wanting to go into the casino.

Kathy Heath (Steel Magnolias SEE REVIEW HERE, Arsenic and Old Lace) is Shirley Summers and Matt Dye (Arsenic and Old Lace, Taming of the Shrew SEE REVIEW HERE) is Maury Summers, the older retired happily married couple on their first real vacation.

At which point I have to note an in joke as SHELLEY Winters played a very reminiscent character in The Poseidon Adventure to SHIRLEY Summers here. Geddit? Shelley Winters/Shirley Summers….Hey I didn’t make it up, I’m just bringing it to your attention.

Sonia Yetming is Levora Verona, a washed up disco singer trying to get back on top.

Trevor Chaumont is Jake.

Jessica Broussard is Tracy.

Rhett Goodner is listed as a stock “Wealthy Man”.

Krista Austin plays Rhett Goodner’s character’s wife.

Jaylin Williams is the Chef.

Bobby Guillory, Nikki Guillory and Noelie Puckett lend their support as various cast members and in the ensemble.

And special commendation to all the stage crew, without whose hard work this crazy carnival of calamity would not have been possible.

So for a comedic catastrophe of clever carnage, for a gargantuan gag fest of gore, and a deliciously droll delivery of devastation (OK, I’m done)…go see — DISASTER: THE MUSICAL at ACTS Theatre, [GET YOUR TICKETS HERE]. Then go pet the dog, call a plumber ….. and smile.

FOR MORE DISASTER PHOTOS GO:

HERE

HERE

and

HERE

MAMMA MIA! EXUBERANCE PERSONIFIED IN THE ADORABLE HEARTWARMING MUSICAL PLAYING AT ACTS THEATRE IN LAKE CHARLES, LA

 

SHORT TAKE:

Upbeat and joyous musical comedy cobbled from the wildly popular songs of ABBA, about a young woman who invites three men who might be her father to her wedding and the lighthearted ensuing fallout therefrom.

WHO SHOULD GO:

There is a bit of light innuendo played for comic buffoonery and a slight bit of mild language but it is the premise of the story that makes this really for mid-teens, with appropriate informed parental discretion, and up.

ALSO – there’s LOTS more pictures on their way which I’ll be adding and even changing over the next day or two – so check in again SOON!!

Also also – we incorporated as many pics as we could into the text of the blog but we couldn’t put them ALL so we have put DOZENS more at the end of the blog and MORE will be added in the next few days – so CHECK OUT PAST THE END OF THE BLOG FOR MANY MANY MORE PHOTOS!!!

LONG TAKE:

If you find yourself feeling down this weekend, boy have I got a cure for you. There is not a prescription in existence that will cheer you up the way Mamma Mia! will. And I challenge anyone to not find themselves helplessly and happily tapping along to the catchy, memorable and upbeat ABBA tunes.

Like the title of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play” the name ABBA is not technically supposed to be mentioned, but as a member of the audience, in case you didn’t know, Mamma Mia! is based on the music of this “unnamed” band, a Swedish pop group which exploded onto the musical scene in the late 1970’s and whose music is now ubiquitous from movies to elevators all over the world. Inspired by the theatrical possibilities of The Winner Takes it All, that song stands as the center showpiece of the plot written by Catherine Johnson.

Opening this Friday, May 31 and playing through June 16 where TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE at Lake Charles’ ACTS Theatre, 7:30 pm June 1, 7, 8, 14 & 15 with Sunday Matinees at 3 pm on June 2, 9 and 16, Mamma Mia is almost an opera buffa. Directed by veteran thespian Walt Kiser, Mamma Mia! jumps like musical parkour, from song to song, avoiding dialogue almost completely. Why say something when you can SING IT! And a more joyous heartfelt set of songs you would be hard pressed to find anywhere.

Even the saddest of the songs will make you smile with their deliciously sappy romanticism. Mamma Mia! dances from Honey, Honey to I Have a Dream, Dancing Queen, SOS, Super Trooper and of course Mamma Mia, as the play lyrically tells its story.

Sophie, a young bride-to-be, has been raised by her single mom, Donna, on a Greek Island. Desperate to find out who her father is and wanting his presence at her wedding, 20 year old Sophie peruses her mother’s diary, and discovers that Donna had had one wild and crazy couple of weeks … about 20 years before. So, behind her mother’s back, Sophie sends a wedding invitation to the unknowing lucky pater familias    — all three of them – Sam, Bill and Harry.  The three unsuspecting men, clueless to their possible fatherhood, show up and the awkward situation escalates comically with every musical number.

The set is in authentic Athens blue highlights, the costumes brightly colorful, the singing strong, and the cast infectiously enthusiastic.

Paula McCain, who recently added her considerable acting talents to McNeese’s The Crucible, leads as Donna. Heather Foreman, fresh from ACTS’ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, LCLT’s Bye Bye Birdie and McNeese University’s Songs for a New World, captivates the audience as Sophie, bringing beautiful youthful exuberance to The Name of the Game and Lay All Your Love on Me.

Casey Doucet, who also serves as musical director, plays Sam, Donna’s first “one who got away”, bringing the same commanding poignancy from ACTS’ Shrek to his half of Mamma Mia‘s star crossed lovers, Sam. Michael Ieyoub is Harry and Mark Hebert is Bill, who endearingly and humorously play the other two Dad candidates.

Krystal Smith as Tanya and Veronica Williams as Rosie take the stage as the singing/dancing best friends of Donna, belting out the likes of Super Trooper and Take a Chance on Me.

Sky, Sophie’s fiancé,  is played by Joshua Peterson. Louis Barrilleaux is Pepper the lecherous bartender, Kane Todd is Eddie, Donna’s assistant, Diki Jines is their Catholic priest, and Anita Fields-Gold is the local island’s watchful kindly dowager.

The amazingly talented dancing troupe of Gracie Myers, Joley Fontenot, Eli Prudhomme, Jay Prudhomme, and Hannah Daigle periodically steal scenes as they punctuate the emotions and songs with near acrobatic choreography.

Kelly Rowland and Lori Tarver are Sophie’s best buds and bridesmaids, Ali and Lisa, aiding with Honey, Honey and others. Rounding out the ensemble and lending their voices and dancing skills, are: Alaina Goins, Amber Zuniga, Kristine Alcantra,  Teresa Marceaux, Taylor Novak-Tyler, Ashley Dickerson,  Zach Benoit, and Dan Sadler.

Brahnsen Lopez is stage manager. Producers are Diane Flatt and Mark Hebert.  Lauren Fontenot is their choreographer and Kris Webster the costumer.

So come to ACTS Theatre, to sing and dance your blues away, with the troupe from Mamma Mia!

 

MORE ON A SUPPLEMENTARY POST FOR MAMMA MIA!

 

 

 

 

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE – A DELIGHTFUL COMEDY OF TERRORS AT OUR OWN LAKE CHARLES, LA ACTS THEATRE

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The Addams Family was an endearing bunch of creepy oddballs. Appearing like zombies, witches and vampires they were actually a loving Mom, Dad, kids and extended family of rich and philanthropic homeschoolers.

The family of Queen Eleanor and King Henry II, in the classic Lion in Winter were not so companionable, and battled continuously with each other throughout the play. Different members bond with, then betray, each other, jockeying for power, land, revenge, attention, or love. At the end of a particularly vicious argument with her husband, Eleanor, left sitting on the floor in the doorway, gathers herself together and to self-console muses: "Well, what family doesn’t have its ups and downs?"

The Guardians of the Galaxy is a band of violent and ethically questionable outlaws and vigilantes who come together as a family unit in part to (re)raise Groot, who is a sentient tree. (See my review on that one here .)

NONE of them have anything on the Brewsters.

The premise of Arsenic and Old Lace is that Mortimer, a once cynical-of-romance theater critic, now totally smitten and freshly engaged to Elaine, the girl next door, goes to his sweet, loving, maiden aunts’ home for a visit and to break the good news.

In residence is his adorable Uncle Teddy, who thinks he is President Theodore Roosevelt, periodically charging up the stairs he knows as San Juan Hill and digging grave sized locks in the basement, which he thinks is the Panama Canal. Hovering in the background is the ominous, but so far absent, other brother, Jonathan. And so the stage is literally set for this very black and very funny slapstick comedy about a family which would put the Guardians on alert, make the Addams Family startle, and have both Henry and Eleanor running for cover. Bodies pile up and are switched like the plates of tuna in Noises Off or the suitcases from What’s Up Doc, identities are hidden and a good time is ultimately had by all…except for the corpses…in Arsenic and Old Lace.

I hesitate to say more for the benefit of those readers who have not seen either the play or the brilliant 1944 movie directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant. If you don’t know the story it is just too delightful to spoil. If you do know some of the details then it will be like going back for seconds of your favorite ice cream.

Clay Hebert, the director and Officer Klein, is a familiar and welcome face from every stage Lake Charles offers. He has a resume which spans from McNeese's Theater to ACTS, and from Lake Charles Little Theatre to the Bayou Players and independent film productions all over Lake Charles. Clay artfully guides this fairly large cast through the quick draw and fast paced humor of Arsenic, which is to comedy what very dark and deliciously bitter semi-sweet morsels are to chocolate chip cookies, skillfully leading his troupe over that tightrope between horror and humor.

Louis Barrilleaux, another talented veteran of ACTS, LCLT and McNeese for over 20 years, is Mortimer, the eye around which this storm circulates.

Kelly Rowland and Sarah Broussard, respectively as Martha and Abbey Brewster, age themselves convincingly 50 years to play Mortimer’s adorably naive and unassuming aunts whose home is the site for some rather….unexpected events. Both ladies have degrees in performance, Kelly in music and Sarah in theater, with a wide and diverse range of acting credits.

Rebecca Harris, an actress with an impressive resume, is Mortimer’s confused but stalwart fiancee.

Aaron Webster, a self-described reluctant actor, is eminently creepy as Jonathan, the ne'er-do-well prodigal brother.

Brahnsen Lopez, another stage veteran, plays Jonathan’s would-be repentant colleague, Dr. Einstein (not Albert).

Matt Dye, local radio personality and frequently cast in small but scene stealing roles, does it again as Teddy.

Mark Hebert, Dusty Duffy, Dylan Conley and Kathy Heath round out the cast with memorable supporting characters.

 

The set is terrific, creating the authentically homey, gentle parlor of two elderly aunts, making the sinister events all the funnier for the contrast, complete with two sets of stairs and a landing up and through which Teddy has the freedom to charge with abandon, a window seat which can house…various and sundry… and French doors through which the characters are free to pop in and out.

I was privileged to interview Diki Jines, master electrician on the set and will have his interview clips up shortly below, talking about the set, its design and a little background.

Timing and blocking are very key, especially in this comedy of terrors and Clay has the tempo and coordinated actions and responses wound like a Swiss Cuckoo clockwork.

It’s a joy to watch a stage full of such talented veterans work smoothly together, and the fact most are old friends and/or fellow thespians, who have trod the boards often together, helps catalyze the chemistry that makes this play full of intimately connected characters work. These performers know each others’ rhythms and make the most of their considerable pool of experience to bring us a delightful evening of fun and fright, chills and chuckles, comedy and carnage, shocks and snickers, jocularity and jump scares.

So go warm up — or chill out — in anticipation of Halloween at ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. But be sure to BYOW. (Bring your own wine.)

BUY TICKETS HERE, OR CALL (337) 433-2287