Review by Charlie Eibin, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team
With go-go dancing to 70s hits such as “Hot Stuff ,” “Hooked on a Feeling ,” and “I Will Survive ,” and the adored discotheque theme, Campbell County High School’s production of “Disaster! the Musical” was nothing close to a disaster.
“Disaster! the Musical” debuted in 2012 and was written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick,having a series of successful productions on Broadway in 2016. “Disaster! the Musical” compiles and references numerous films from the disaster genre of the 1970’s. A disaster specialist working to prevent the impending disasters, a lounge performer looking for love, a deceitful owner doing whatever he can to make a buck, a nun with a gambling addiction, plus many more board the Barracuda, a floating casino. This parody includes every disaster to be thought of, from an earthquake to killer rats, leaving the ultimate question of who will survive to be left unanswered until the very end of the show.
The exuberance and spirit of every single cast and crew member is what truly anchored the show. From vigorous dance numbers to lightning quick scene changes, the work couldn’t have been anything short of exhausting, yet the students of Campbell County High School pulled it off flawlessly.
The leads of the production, Morgan Knight (Jackie), a vivacious lounge performer with two children and Trey Finkenstead (Ted), the hard-at-work disaster specialist, did wonderful work in embodying their characters. With powerful numbers contributing to their characterization and love story, along with the spirit and energy portrayed by both students, little was left to be fulfilled for these unique characters.
Supporting the production with exceptionally comedic lines and stage presence was Tiana Mounts as Sister Mary Downy, a judgmental nun with a disastrous gambling addiction, and Parker Culp, who embodied both Ben and Lisa, the twins of Jackie (Morgan Knight). To play both brother and sister, with only a hat with pigtails to physically differentiate the characters must have been extremely difficult, but Culp did phenomenally in differentiating the two characters through mannerisms and stage presence, as well as comically running off stage to put on or take off the hat.
Another impressive component of the show was the work of the crews. Beginning the show with a projected video, Ashley Cooper and Gracie Markus, on the special effects crew, worked hard throughout the show. Providing effects for explosions, earthquakes, and other sounds, this crew successfully added a new level of creativity. Ashlyn Arthur, Jessi Spradlin, Christa Justus, and the stage crew should also be noticed for their impressively fast scene changes and brilliant work in blocking the show.
Every time the go-go dancers came on and the disco ball lowered to the stage, the audience would be delighted in groovy dance number after number in which the students of Campbell County High School never disappointed.
Review by Lin DeGraaf, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
A tank of piranhas, a gambling nun, and a rumbling earthquake sounds like a recipe for disaster! However, Campbell County High School’s fantastic production of “Disaster! the Musical” was anything but!
Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, “Disaster! the Musical” parodies the multitudes of horrible disaster movies in the past. Caught on a cruise ship in the midst of a terrible earthquake, the characters must bond together in order to escape. Filled with classical character tropes, hits from the 70s, and chaos around every corner, “Disaster! the Musical” is the epitome of the idea that everything that could go wrong, does.
Campbell County’s production was wildly fun and filled with hilarity. Energetic dancing, powerful vocals, and marvelous set pieces made this performance one to remember.
Leading the show was Trey Finkenstead, performing the role of the comedic disaster expert, Ted. Finkenstead’s performance was incredible as demonstrated through his strong singing voice and equally strong acting talents. From his impeccable comedic timing to his exaggerated facial expressions, Finkenstead truly captured the heroic heart of the production, commanding the stage wherever he went. Just as impressive was Parker Culp who was a delight on and off stage. Seamlessly switching between his two characters, Ben and Lisa, Culp’s performance was heartfelt and entertaining.
Not to be forgotten, however, was Sister Mary Downy , portrayed by Tiana Mounts. Mounts’s energy, combined with clear dialect and hilarious facial expressions, made her character a memorable one. Mounts’s exuberated energy and overall dedication to her character was a delight to watch each time she entered the stage.
When speaking of the technical aspects, the marvelous and humongous set comes to mind. With full student execution and construction, the stage’s set pieces were incredible. The challenge of having a second-floor bridge to hold many actors and transforming the set completely upside down was quite a feat, transforming the stage into the cruise ship. In concurrence with the set was the student-run crew who impressively performed a plethora of quick scene changes as set pieces were seamlessly pushed on and off stage.
Earthquakes, a Titanic-esque sinking, and an inflamed kitchen all seem like a disaster ready to happen. However, Campbell County’s musical production, “Disaster! the Musical,” was nothing less than an absolute success.
Review by Sydney Cooper, Highlands High School Cappies Critic Team
The 70s are most commonly known for bell bottoms, shag carpet, Disaster movies, and most importantly- funky fresh tunes. All of these items mentioned,and more, can be found at one time or another in Campbell County High School’s production of “Disaster! The Musical .”
“Disaster! the Musical,” written by Jack Plotnick and Seth Rudetsky , tells the story of a stereotypical disaster film that was written during the 1970’s. With this new genre, people were obsessed with finding new ways to tell stories about natural phenomenon that could happen at any moment in a person’s life. However, many of the films were commonly known as “cheesy,” unrealistic, and very similar in plot. With these expectations and jukebox favorites from the time period, a musical comedy about this genre was incredibly easy to generate into a hit.
The overall element that made this musical so incredible to watch was the quick changes by the running crew led by Stage Manager, Ashlyn Arthur . In the show, there are approximately 60 scene changes, and with each one, the crew was incredibly skillful with the timing of their movements and their pace. These changes kept the show at its fun and upbeat level the entire time, which, in turn, gave the actors a more energetic feel.
In addition to having a fantastic run crew, the lead actor, Trey Finkenstead , did a phenomenal job portraying the role of the scientist, Ted . While playing a stereotype, it is easy to get caught up in the caricature of the role; however, his frantic appearance and increasing dishevelment throughout the show moved the story along and gave each character more of a purpose as the show went on. Trey was also great with his dancing, singing, acting and his ability to keep up his energy throughout the show.
Even though the show is mainly a comedy, comic actress Tiana Mounts added another level of hilarity to the show as Sister Mary Downy with the gambling addiction. Her energy and style never faltered throughout. With quick quips and off-handed comments to the other characters, it was funny to see the irony behind the double life of the Nun and to give the message that not everyone is completely good or bad.
To add onto the amazing talent of the actors, the lighting crew, led by Emily Schneider , did an incredible job. In the show, there are many scenes that take place on the upper level of the deck of the ship which happens to be on a very tall platform on the stage. Rigging and focusing lights to be able to light actors at that height is very tricky and takes a lot of time to get right. It was impressive to see that every light was always spot on, and none of the characters were ever in shadow. The other impressive aspect of the lights was with all of the scene changes. Since the show had so many scenes, each scene was given different lighting,some with special lighting such as the actors using lighters and the strobe effects in Act 2. The cues were perfectly timed and worked wonderfully with the scene given.
With fantastic actors and an even better crew, Campbell County High School gave an incredibly groovy performance about the importance of always knowing what to do in a disaster.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“One knock-out performance that swooned hearts and minds was self-proclaimed ladies’ man Chad , played by Joshua Wagner . He held true to the nature of his innocent character while adding a comically melodramatic twist in showing his disparity of being ‘Torn Between Two Lovers.’”
- Cassidy Perme, Highlands High School
“Not once did the Campbell County Stage Management and Stage Crew shrink from the task of transitioning a ceaselessly shifting set of scenes; from the lounge performances and dressing room meetings of Act I to the whirlwind of doom rooms and flooding casino floors in Act II, the Stage Crew managed to flip, shift and build scenes in the blink of an eye.”
-Allyson Standley, Walnut Hills High School
“Tiana Mounts who played the role of Sister Mary Downy , was an extremely engaging and humorous actress, whose dramatic performance was enhanced by her animated facial expressions. Without a doubt, the most humorous character was Ben/Lisa, delightfully played by Parker Culp , who was fully devoted to his character as he gracefully played two characters!”
-Annie Farkas, Ursuline Academy
“The technical elements were also wildly impressive. The show started with a preview of the bridge conundrum, the cause of the earthquakes. Ashley Cooper and Gracie Markus were able to flawlessly give the illusion of men on a bridge with the clever use of a green screen. The set was to look like a ship, and it truly did. With the ability to change from Act I to Act II, the students truly were able to highlight their expertise.”
-Tammy Sanow, Highlands High School
“Another incredibly hard aspect of “Disaster! the Musical” is the set. At one point in the production, an earthquake causes the Barracuda to flip upside down, which means the entire set has to be affected by the plot point. Campbell County’s running crew did an amazing job of handling all the fast set changes, especially the extreme changes like the flipped over ship. Throughout the duration of the show, crew members quickly unbraked moving pieces and hauled them off stage, and even added pieces to the set to show the damage the boat had suffered. The flawlessness of the set changes showed the dedication of the crew, and they deserve an endless amount of commendation for their hard work.”
-Sujaya Sunkara, William Mason High School
“Not only did the leads deliver top-notch performances, but the supporting cast gave the performance their all as well. Parker Culp as Jackie’s children, Ben and Lisa, was a notable performer as he took on a complicated, but very rewarding role. His ability to switch back and forth between the two characters, as well as his ability to play off of the other actors, made him a joy to watch on stage.”
-Izzy Moses, Highlands High School
“The hard work of the crews must also be recognized in a production as complex as “Disaster! the Musical.” The set was constructed by the combined efforts of Campbell County High School’s class and the crews, its ingenuity making it dynamic and allowing for the creativity of multiple and numerous set changes. Set changes flowed smoothly, thanks to a fast-paced and coordinated running crew. Lighting crew also creativity built suspense and tension through the lights and kept elements isolated and easy to follow throughout the show.”
-Natalie Muglia, William Mason High School
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.