Certain ‘Disaster’: APT musical parodies campy ’70s films

Certain ‘Disaster’: APT musical parodies campy ’70s films

In baseball, up-and-coming players dream of making it to “the show” — the big leagues where they get a chance to shine among the legends.

In community theater, it works much the same way. You earn your place at the front of a cast that includes Michael Weir, Caity Church, Lexie Edmunds, Kevin Lancaster and Kathy McClure.

This summer, in a jukebox musical titled “Disaster,” that ascending star at Arkansas Public Theatre is Edward Mountz. As co-star Patrick Edmunds — another one of those APT legends — puts it: “He’s killing it.”

Mountz plays Chad, “a charismatic ladies man who is trying to meet new women after a pretty messy and rather sudden breakup,” as he describes the character. He’s working on a floating casino, The Barracuda, which comes complete with high-dollar guests, an “aging but still sexy” jazz singer, a disaster expert who knows one when he sees one — and Chad’s ex, a reporter, played by Lexie Edmunds. Mountz admits drawing on his own long-ago breakup for inspiration, but when he sings “I Can’t Live,” you’ll know that silly girl missed the boat!

“Growing up with my dad, he was a classic rock guy,” Mountz explains. “I rarely ever heard anything else other than classic rock from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. When I found out that this show was a ’70s jukebox musical, I had to be a part of it.

“Most of the time when I go into a musical, I have probably only heard the soundtrack a few times, and so I have to dedicate extra time to learn that music, but with this one, I already know most of the songs by heart,” he adds. “The biggest challenge for me has definitely been getting the lines down. This is the first time I’ve ever had a leading role and the most lines I’ve had.”

Playing the leading man is both wonderful and terrifying, he admits.

“I thought it wouldn’t be much different from how it is being in the ensemble, but it’s a very different ball game! … As a lead, when it’s you on the stage, it’s just you. Every movement you make is going to be focused on by a majority of the audience. I’m really thankful to have great direction because without it, I’d feel like a deer in headlights.”

Mountz came back to theater in 2020 after a long hiatus, during which he sang some and worked a lot. His significant other hooked him on “Hamilton,” and after moving to Northwest Arkansas, he looked for a community theater to try his hand. He was just in time to be cast in “Newsies” at APT, but he says his favorite role so far has been one of the Bad Idea Bears in “Avenue Q.”

“My cast mates and the chemistry we had made that show so memorable for me, but this role is a very close second,” he says.

Co-directors Ed McClure and Brenda Mashburn Nemec promise that although nothing like “Avenue Q” or “Something Rotten,” “Disaster” is “so silly but so fun!”

“The show is a parody of the 1970s disaster films such as ‘Poseidon Adventure,’ ‘Towering Inferno’ and ‘Jaws,’” Nemec explains.

“Those movies cast some of the best actors of the time, but somehow, everyone’s performance in those films felt so over the top,” adds McClure. “We are embracing that hammy-ness and larger-than-life quality in our performances.”

“Admittedly, I wasn’t terribly interested in this show initially,” says Kevin Lancaster, who portrays the “noted disaster expert,” Professor Ted Scheider. “However, after studying it and getting to know the show, I totally changed my mind. The show is a nostalgic — and hilarious — look at the disaster films and music of the ’70s. If there was ever a show where you could play everything “over the top,” this is it.”

“When ‘Disaster’ was announced, I didn’t know anything about it,” agrees Caity Church, who plays the jazz singer. “I looked up the music when I learned it was a jukebox musical, and I knew and loved nearly all of the songs. We discovered that there would be a role for a young male around [my daughter] Maysie’s age, so we found a bootleg on YouTube to watch. We absolutely LOVED it; we could not stop laughing.”

While Maysie Church works on her batting average in the summer leagues, Mountz has fallen so in love with “the show” that he’s going to college this fall to study theater. Like his character, he’s had “a lot of ups and downs before coming to the final conclusion.”




WHEN — 8 p.m. Aug. 5-6; 2 p.m. Aug. 7; 8 p.m. Aug. 11-13; 2 p.m. Aug. 14

WHERE — Arkansas Public Theatre at the Victory in Rogers

COST — $25 & up

INFO — 631-8988, arkansaspublictheatre.org

Categories: Theater