Act3 Productions aims for a successful 2019-2020 theater season by starting with disasters. The Sandy Springs semi-professional theater is bringing earthquakes, infernos, tidal waves and swarming wildlife to its stage with ”Disaster!,” a musical parody of the disaster movies that proliferated in the 1970s, which premieres Aug. 9.

Act3 is fresh from a 2018-2019 season that garnered a record 38 nominations for Metropolitan Atlanta Theater (MAT) Awards. The ceremony is to take place on Aug. 25.

“Disaster!” cast members carry out a dress rehearsal in July. (Phil Mosier)

For the new season, Act3 has an ambitious schedule following the close of “Disaster!” on Aug. 24. Second on the season docket in September is courtroom thriller, “Twelve Angry Jurors,” based on the acclaimed movie with Henry Fonda. The thought-provoking drama explores what it means to live in a democracy.

In November, “Baby,” a musical, follows the highs and lows of impending parenthood for three couples: college age young people just going into adulthood; 30-somethings determined to succeed in conceiving; and middle-aged parents expecting a surprise baby.

Next up in February is “Calendar Girls,” a comedy based on a true story. Two best friends decide to raise money for Leukemia Research by posing nude for a calendar. The news of the women’s charitable venture spreads like wildfire, and hordes of press soon descend on their small village.

For its season closer in April, Act3 chose the 1998 Broadway revival production of the classic award-winning musical “Cabaret,” which follows entertainer Sally Bowles in the decadent Kit Kat Klub as the Nazi Party quietly takes hold of 1930s Berlin.

But first, it’s time for “Disaster!” In the musical comedy, the array of threats doesn’t stop a cast of characters from dancing, gambling and romancing on opening night in 1979 aboard New York’s first floating casino and discothèque, “The Barracuda.”

During the 1970s, more than 30 disasters at sea, in the sky, on and under land, and from space lit up, flooded, blew away, crashed, shook and burned on the big screens during the disaster film decade. Some reached iconic status: “Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Earthquake” and “Airport” are among them. As the trend took hold, their numbers grew, as did sequels.

Along with jukebox pop hits from the ’70s, it makes for “a show filled with fun, goofy, kitschy humor with some underlying drama,” says Spencer G. Stephens, director for the Act3 production.

How will they bring all those disasters to a small theater? Stephens said he did not want to give away too much, but he did share that “the stage will be infested with rats, ceilings will fall, and there will be some casualties.”

“Disaster!” by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, first appeared Off-Off Broadway in 2012, moved to Off-Broadway in 2013-14, and in March 2016 made it to Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre, with an all-star cast. The Broadway production closed three months later after 32 previews and 72 regular performances, though it did garner some rave reviews from New York critics. But the show has always been around under the radar and is surprisingly well-known, said Mary Sorrel, Act 3’s executive director and board chair.

This is a rare opportunity to see the show. There is no record that it has played in a community or professional theater in Atlanta to date, although it has appeared on high school stages occasionally, noted Stephens.

“Disaster!” popped up on the radar during Act3’s initial consideration for season shows, which started from Nov. 15 and continued through Jan. 15.

Sorrel and Michelle Davis, Act3’s artistic director, pitch shows for the next season and selection begins in mid-January. For musicals, they call on the expertise of John-Michael D’Haviland, music director for Act3 and instructor at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School.

“It’s a lengthy and complex process,” said Davis. “Important in all these considerations is what makes the season appealing to our community — our audiences and the actors who will audition and perform. In a small space like Act3’s the actors and audiences need to feel a connection. It is like being part of a community.”

Act3 Productions
2019-2020 season
6285-R Roswell Road, Sandy Springs
Info: act3productions.org
Disaster!, Aug. 9-24
12 Angry Jurors, Sept. 13-29
Baby, Nov. 8-24
Calendar Girls, Feb. 7-23
Cabaret, April 10-26

–Judith Schonbak

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