Fans of cheesy all – star movies like Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Airport, Jaws, or even Piranha, look no further.
Disaster, now playing at the Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street in New York City, takes the tried and true jukebox Broadway musical formula and turns it upside down. Literally.
Set on the fictional Barracuda, a combination casino and floating discotheque, this first rate production promises and delivers two hours of non – stop hilarity, deliberately convoluted story lines, tacky special effects, true confessions, exposed secrets, a long list of hit pop songs, and outrageous over – acting from a stellar veteran cast.
If the name Seth Rudetsky sounds familiar, he is potentially the Encyclopaedia Savant of The Great White Way. Host of Seth Speaks on radio and a long – time You Tube cult favourite, Rudetsky is Disaster’s co – creator (with Drew Geraci) , co – writer (with Jack Plotnick), music supervisor, and song arranger. He also stars as Professor Ted Scheider, the worry – wart scientist who (correctly) predicts a wave of doom and gloom on board the Barracuda’s maiden voyage.
To be inside Rudetsky’s head here is both a shear delight and in a good way, like experiencing a musical manic episode with a disco beat, first – hand.
Bathed in rainbow hues, bold scenic design by Tobin Ost seems to draw on seventies’ television trash like The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and Super Train for inspiration. William Ivey Long’s over – the – top costumes, combined with Paul Huntley’s wig & hair design, and make – up by Ann Ford – Coates would make the likes of Charo, Wayne Newton, or Ann Margret very proud indeed.
Seamless sound (Mark Menard) and lighting (Jeff Croiter) help make this a memorable and easy – to digest adventure.
There are so many stand – out moments from the cast, I began to lose count.
Having said this, Jennifer Simard’s deadpan singing nun with severe gambling issues must surely scoop the actress a Tony nomination later this year. I stake my reputation as a reviewer on it.
Her scene – stealing rendition of ”Torn Between Two Lovers”, meanwhile making out with a poker machine, brought down the house. It was one of those ‘you have to see it to believe it’ bits, but within the context of the story, totally works.
Broadway legend, Faith Prince, brings the full crazy as Shirley, a woman hiding a terminal disease from her partner, with symptoms including excessive winking, pelvic thrusting, and Tourette’s syndrome. It was a treat to see Ms Prince work the room with no holds barred, and a tap – routine to boot.
Roger Bart is suitably frazzled as the ship’s director, Tony, while Rachel York is the resident lounge singer, Jackie. Both have fun playing off each other’s neuroses.
Making her Broadway debut, Lacretta Nicole is Levora, a Diana Ross / Aretha Franklin composite, desperate to make a career comeback. Nicole understands the character’s point of view, working her big moments of comic potential very well indeed.
Adam Pascal (Chad) and Kerry Butler (Marianne) not only harmonise beautifully together as the story’s stock young lovers, they twist and stretch their romantic plot point to the limit.
Special mention to newcomer, Baylee Littrell, for playing pre – teen twins, Ben and Lisa. His solid vocal and comic acting range makes Littrell a future performer to watch.
This delicious throwback to a bygone movie era, will appeal to anyone over forty, or an insatiable taste for disco and high – octane camp.