When Disaster! is funny, it’s as funny as any show in the city. And you will simply not hear the 1970s disco and pop rock songs that make up its score sung better anywhere – in some cases they outshine the original. That said, like most parodies Disaster! is quite uneven; a there are a bunch of jokes that don’t really land, and some scenes that definitely take too long to make their point.
Broadway musician, comedian and SiriusXM DJ Seth Rudetsky got together with director Jack Plotnick to write this loving tribute to disaster movies of the 1970s (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, etc.). They’ve added an extra layer of camp, making Disaster! musically to 1970s soft rock what Rock of Ages is to hair metal.
Rudetsky also plays “disaster expert” Ted, who everybody thinks is crazy for predicting Manhattan’s first floating casino and discotheque is destined for all kinds of trouble. “No,” says Ted, “I’ve asked a therapist and humorless and crazy are not the same thing!” It’s a funny line, but don’t you believe it – Rudetsky’s deadpan timing is actually pretty damn hilarious.
Plotnick’s direction is deft, dynamic and fluid, aided and abbeted by witty, driving work from choreographer Denis Jones. Rudetsky and Plotnick are both beloved in the Broadway community, so it’s hardly surprising that they put together a stunning cast, particularly Mary Testa as a Long Island housewife with a dark secret (with hilarious symptoms), and Jennifer Simard as a nun whose demeanor runs from comically repressed to manically released.
Plotnick would be well advised to go on what director Jack O’Brien calls a “clam hunt” – watching the show for several nights and measuring how big a laugh lines get. If a line is there strictly for laughs, but rarely gets more than a pity titter, out it goes. That would be if he wants Disaster closer to comedy heaven; it’s already on the high end of comedy purgatory and as such is plenty of fun.
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