For audiences of a certain age, 1970’s disaster movies are remembered for their overblown silliness and A list casts. These films are lovingly satirized in the Broadway musical Disaster! The show is a mash-up of such classics of the genre as Earthquake, The Towering Inferno, and The Poseidon Adventure. As with their celluloid brethren the production is over-the-top, self-conscious, schmaltzy, and features a first rate cast of Broadway musical veterans. They include Faith Prince, Kevin Chamberlain, Adam Pascal, Roger Bart, and Rachel York. Special mention goes to Jennifer Simard as a deadpan, cynical nun with a past. She consistently enlivens the production every time her black patent leather shoes set foot on stage.
The score is comprised entirely of hits songs from the era, including such personal favorites as the “Hawaii 5-0” theme song; “Saturday Night,” from the Bay City Rollers; and “Hooked on a Feeling,” by Blue Suede. They are creatively and mirthfully integrated into the storyline. For example, two trapped passengers sing “Knock Three Times” as they try to signal the other survivors about their worsening plight.
Book writers Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick have stitched together a smattering of plot lines from disaster movies. They involve an overly large cruise ship, shoddily constructed; an earthquake; tidal wave; and absurd mayhem. They have also added a bevy of featherbrained characters. There are many sight gags and inventive devices integrated into the libretto. However, by the beginning of Act II the set-up begins to get a little thin and tiresome. There’s just so much a spoof of this nature can achieve. Then, again, you don’t attend the show for its dramatic merit.
The point of Disaster! is for the audience and actors to have a shipshape, top notch experience and Plotnick, doing double duty as director, makes this the priority. At the performance I attended both groups were successfully having a rollicking good time. The director helms the show with a breezy, carefree, and somewhat slapdash style. Sometimes it appears like a good-natured college production.
Disaster!, fun, entertaining, and not to be taken too seriously.