This weekend and next, the Kenai Performers are putting on “Disaster!” — a 1970s inspired musical featuring disco hits and homages to classic disaster cinema.
Director Terri Zopf-Schoessler said that “Disaster!” is equal parts homage and parody, celebrating disco music and disaster films while poking fun at them.
The show debuted in 2011, and follows a colorful cast of characters who attend the opening night of the Barracuda — a floating casino in New York. That casino is struck by a variety of natural disasters throughout the show.
Josiah Burton plays Chad, who he described as “a player.”
“He’s very different than most of the characters I play,” he said. “He very much is out to find women.”
Burton said he’s long had a soft spot for 1970s music and movies. He said he was raised like a millennial on VHS tapes.
“When I heard there was a ‘70s jukebox musical I was immediately onboard,” he said.
Charli Byrd plays Marianne, a news reporter investigating the slimy businessman, Tony, who runs the casino.
“She sees right through his plan, and she’s trying to stop him,” Byrd said.
She said the role was different for her, as she’s used to playing “devious” roles, or something like Little Red Riding Hood.
“I’ve never been an adult woman,” she said. “Everyone else gets to wear sparkles and here I am dressed like a couch.”
Byrd said “Disaster!” is the most physically demanding show she’s done.
Opposing Marianne in the role of Tony the slimy businessman is Bill Taylor, who said his character is the cheap casino owner who “cut corners and skimped on safety.” Of course, he said, by the end of the show he gets his comeuppance.
Sounding the alarm from the opening number is disaster expert Ted, played by Chris Pepper.
“I start the show off kind of robotic,” Pepper said. “As it goes on I unbutton.”
Pepper said the show is big and crazy, but also very complex.
“The whole show is a nonstop disco thrill ride,” he said.
Yvette Tapanna plays Jackie, the Barracuda’s main singer, waiting for Tony to ask for her hand in marriage.
As “a child of the ‘70s,” Tapanna said she was immediately interested in the show for its combined spoofing and homaging of 1970s culture.
“This was an off-Broadway show and they did a really good job of honoring and making fun of stuff all at the same time,” she said.
Jackie’s twins, Ben and Lisa, are both played — at times simultaneously — by Kassandra Feltman.
“The biggest challenge is remembering who you are in the moment,” she said. Her costume includes a reversible hat that shows blue for Ben, pink for Lisa.
Feltman said she is “obviously not a ‘70s kid,” but that “Disaster!” had been fun because it was colorful and the cast had a lot of room to get creative.
Alyeska Garrett is Sister Mary, a nun she described as “very reserved” and “judgmental,” but who has a “deep dark secret.”
Garrett said “Disaster!” is different from a traditional musical because it features so many recognizable tunes from the 70s. She said a lot of the fun and the appeal comes from those surprise features, but that the show also brought depth.
Zopf-Schoessler said that the show takes a fun spin on the music — the tunes are recognizable, but are used in unique contexts that change their meaning.
That unique spin could be seen immediately as the group performed the show’s opening number, a take on the 1979 track “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer. Chad and Scott are looking for “hot ladies,” Ted is looking for a hot sample of sediment that “exceeds 100 degrees Celsius,” and Tony is looking for a hot meal for his guests at the casino, no “cold cuts.”
Tapanna said that more than 20 songs are featured at a fast clip, and that there are lots of strong showings from the local actors musically.
“There are so many phenomenal voices on the peninsula,” Tapanna said. “Here there are so many opportunities for people to have their parts and songs that make them shine.”
A word used by many members of the cast was “ridiculous.” The jokes are silly, the costumes are big and bright, and the musical numbers are over the top.
“You don’t see these costumes too often, there’s a lot of sequins,” Garrett said. “It’s fun to see people onstage exploring and having a good time.”
Zopf-Schoessler said that there would be a lot of enjoyment for folks with 1970s nostalgia to see the dance moves, hear the songs and especially to witness the costumes.
Other members of the cast said that there would be a lot of fun even for folks without cultural touchstones from the 1970s — the music is still catchy and the jokes are still funny.
“I don’t think you have to be old to appreciate the humor, and I think the songs that they pick are so popular, most people would know what they are,” Taylor said.
Amy Burton, a member of the ensemble, said that “Disaster!” is fun, thematically light fare that will be a fun escape.
Donna Shirnberg, who plays Jackie in the show, said the Kenai Performers have been looking at “Disaster!” for a few years. She said there was a lot of appeal to the show for its homages to disaster films.
“You had your heroines and you had your sleaze balls,” she said. “Then you have the poor people that are just kind of in the middle.”
“Disaster!” is being advertised as PG-13, and Tapanna said it features some risque jokes.
“It’s hilarious from the opening number to the closing scene,” Shirnberg said.
The show runs at the Kenai Performers’ black box theater on Kalifornsky Beach Road on Thursday through Sunday this week and next week, Feb. 23 through 26 and Mar. 2 through 5.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m., while Sunday shows are a matinee at 2 p.m.
A cash bar provided by Upper Deck and an hourlong disco party with the cast will be held at the theater after the Friday and Saturday evening shows. Zopf-Schoessler said that the cast would be teaching some disco dances during the parties.
“The disco parties are gonna be really rocking,” Amy said.
Tickets can be purchased at kenaiperformers.org. For more information about “Disaster!” and other upcoming shows, visit facebook.com/kenaiperformers.