By: Lauren Yarger
Disaster! A 70s Disaster Movie Musical
What’s It All About:
It’s a send up of those famous disaster movies of the 70s. You’ve heard of them if you don’t remember them: "The Poseidon Adventure," "Airport," "Earthquake," "The Towering Inferno"…. with songs from the time period fit into the silly plot about the grand opening of New York’s first floating casino and disco.
Many, many disasters of many, many kinds threaten the casino and the various characters, played by a large, enthusiastic ensemble. Heading the cast are Broadway vet Mary Testa and Rudetsky, popular afternoon host on SiriusXM’s Broadway program, among other credits in the industry both as a performer and as a musician. Plotnick recently joined the cast too when an actor departed and that is who I saw the afternoon I attended. It is a corny, groan-inducing, slapstick kind of funny.
What are the highlights:
Rudetsy’s consummate knowledge of songs and lyrics makes for some unexpected and humorous selections among the songs which include "Alone Again Naturally," "Daybreak," "Hot Stuff," "Hooked on a Feeling," "Don’t Cry Out Loud," and, of course, "Feelings," among others from the era.
Testa on a stage is a treat any time (and made even more entertaining by the horrendous orange plaid pantsuit designed for her by Brian Hemesath). She had the blue-haired matinee crowd rolling in the aisles as a woman (slightly reminiscent of Shelly Winters’ character in the "Poseidon Adventure") who tries to keep her illness and impending death, complete with its Tourette-like outbursts, a secret from her devoted husband, Maury (Tom Rhys Farrell). Young Jonah Vernon charmed the crowd playing both in-peril twins Lisa and Ben while managing to sing with himself. The real standout here, though, is Jennifer Simard as understated, guitar-playing (think "Airport") Sister Mary, who is a hoot as a conflicted nun trying to bring souls to the Lord while fighting her addiction to the slot machines ("Torn Between Two Lovers….")
What Are the Lowlights:
At two hours and 10 minutes, it’s way too long. It’s not a direct spoof of the disaster movies (which is kind of disappointing), just an homage to them, so the joke can only go so far before it gets old. The silly plot and minimally designed set by Josh Iacovelli (who also designs the lighting) would lend themselves better to a dinner theater setup like the one hosted across the street at Sophia’s Downstairs.
Disaster! plays at St. Luke’s Theatre, 308 West 46th St., NYC. A previous version ofDisaster! played weekly performances at The Triad Theater in NYC from January – March 2012. This production marks the show’s Off-Broadway premiere.
Performances: Mondays and Tuesday at 7:30 pm; Wednesdays at 2:30 pm; Fridays at 8 pm. Tickets are $39.50 – $69.50: 212-239-6200; (800-447-7400 (outside of NYC);disastermusical.com.
Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick
Original Concept by Seth Rudetsky and Drew Geraci
Music Director and Orchestrations: Larry Pressgrove
Choreographed by Denis Jones
Directed by Jack Plotnick
Full disclosure: One of the members of the ensemble is the daughter of a close friend and I have recused myself from commenting on her performance or the role she plays.
Photo: Jeremy Daniel