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Disaster!

Moving to Broadway hasn’t dimmed the hilarity of this tongue-in-cheek, brilliantly chintzy, look at disaster films.

Catherine Ricafort, Roger Bart, Baylee Littrell, Seth Rudetsky, Rachel York, Kevin Chamberlain and Olivia Phillip in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

Catherine Ricafort, Roger Bart, Baylee Littrell, Seth Rudetsky, Rachel York, Kevin Chamberlain and Olivia Phillip in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

The off-Broadway, belly-laugh-filled musical, Disaster!, made the leap to Broadway in a posh production starring an A-list of musical theater veterans.  Perhaps, some of the “let’s-put-on-a-show” charm of the original has been lost in the transition, but watching these charmers giving their all in the service of Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s wacky libretto is the ultimate in theatrical escapism.

Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s libretto mocks all the famous disaster films of the seventies, like Jaws, Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Ben, etc., and squeezes every Bible worthy catastrophe onto the Nederlander stage, all the while using hit songs from the seventies, sung live, to punctuate the libretto with music that makes singing—and dancing—along difficult to avoid.

The action takes place on the opening day of a shoddily built floating gambling casino in the Hudson River run by Tony (a properly sleazy Roger Bart).  Beautiful lounge singer Jackie, (a daffily elegant Rachel York), hopes to marry the shady Tony after her stint in the casino’s cabaret.  She has brought along her twins, Ben and Lisa (both hilariously played by Baylee Littrell).

Adam Pascal and Kerry Butler in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

Adam Pascal and Kerry Butler in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

Meanwhile two cater waiters, Chad and Scott (macho Adam Pascal and nerdy Max Crumm), try to be smarmy womanizers with mixed success.  Chad is accidentally reunited with super-efficient reporter, Marianne (the wonderful Kerry Butler) who jilted Chad at the altar several years before.  Poor, bumbling Max never quite makes it with a “chick.”

Dour Dr. Ted (Mr. Rudetsky), a disaster specialist, warns all who will listen of impending doom from every calamity, including earthquakes and tidal waves.  He is, of course, ignored until his predictions come true, in spades.

Faith Prince, Kevin Chamberlain and Kerry Butler in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

Faith Prince, Kevin Chamberlain and Kerry Butler in a scene from “Disaster!” (Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel Photography)

And, speaking of things Biblical, Sister Mary Downy (a stupendously deadpan, on target Jennifer Simard) is waylaid onto the boat where she has to confront her dark relationships with both God and one-armed bandits.

Also on board are the doomed middle class, Jewish couple, Shirley (a lusciously daffy Faith Prince) and her loving husband, Maury (Kevin Chamberlin who makes the most of an under-written part).  Adding to the mayhem is the stowaway, ex-disco-diva, Levora (a divine Lacretta Nicole) whose attempts at regaining her former glory are waylaid by her little puppy dog.

How Jackie finds true love, Sister Mary survives her gambling addiction, Chad and Marianne reunite, Tony realizes the errors of his way and Shirley saves the day make for two hours of breezy fun.

Choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter uses the seventies songs wittily and the director Jack Plotnick keeps thing going at a breakneck speed, aided by the posh scenery of Tobin Ost and the period and character perfect costumes by William Ivey Long.

Everyone on stage seemed to be having a ball, their infectious energy and good spirits contagious.

Disaster! (through May 8, 2016)

Nederlander Theater, 208 West 41st Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 877-250-2929 or visit http://www.ticketmaster.com

For more information, visit http://www.DisasterMusical.com

Running time:  two hours including one intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (226 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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