Sunday, March 6, 2016

Disaster is Anything But...

Onstage with Seth Rudetsky after the show
Seth Rudetsky is a staple in the New York Theater scene as an author, actor, accompanist, arranger, MD, radio personality, Playbill columnist - all around theater enthusiast. Now with Disaster! he must be pinching himself to have a show he co-wrote and co-conceived playing the great White Way...with himself driving the ship (or as Professor Ted Scheider, trying to save everyone that is on it).

Rudetsky and co-writer Jack Plotnick (who skillfully directs the piece) first produced this campy, nod to the 70s disaster films off-broadway to raves. (It actually ran at an off-off-broadway house for 3 months in 2012 and then a longer run at St. Luke's Theatre in 2013/14.) I missed it then, but will admit I was listening to those neigh-sayers that said a show like this should stay off-Broadway like Silence the Musical or BatBoy and not move to a larger venue on Broadway. that wrong.

Broadway has room for all kinds of shows and guess what...we need to laugh. Like Xanadu, Rock of Ages and Mama Mia - Disaster! gives an audience permission to not only enjoy nostalgic music from the past, but laugh with the characters on stage. Disaster! uses more than 30 songs from the disco era - sometimes as full songs, sometimes just a snippet - and you never know what's coming. That is part of the joy of it all. A line is spoken and BOOM...we are in the middle of a disco song.  Being on Broadway also allows for production values around sets, costumes, lighting to be upgraded - but they still stay true to their roots in how they portray water rising on this sinking vessel or other comic bits that I won't ruin.

There is so much that is so sublimely ridiculous in this show that it is hard to share too much as I don't want to give away any of the jokes or what to expect. The premise is an opening of a floating casino leaving New York City where all of these disasters occur. The professor, the aging disco diva, the older married couple, the reporter, the ship owner, the star performer and her children, the ship workers....they are all there. 

Just like The Love Boat would have a star-studded cast, Disaster! has assembled some of the best in the business. This entire ensemble works so hard, fully committed to the characters as broad as they may be, and seems to be having so much fun just letting loose that you want to be up on stage singing these 70s hits with them.  It's interesting to note that two of them are originals from the 2012 production and another is a carryover from the off-Broadway run. Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Adam Pascal (returning to the Nederlander Theatre where he played RENT forever), Faith Prince, and Rachel York are names theater-lovers have known for many years. Together they have tons of credits and Tonys among them. They are all amazing performers and bring so much comic timing and incredible vocals to this production. 

Add in Seth Rudetsky, Max Crumm (who won the role of Danny in Grease on TV's You're the One That I Want), Lacretta Nicole (who was in the 2012 production and making her Broadway debut in a huge way), Baylee Littrell (awesome son of Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell), the incredibly brilliant in all senses of the word Jennifer Simard as the nun (remember this name...I'm sure she will be remembered at Tony time), and six ensemble members getting a work out singing/dancing and changing costumes non-stop through the night to fill out the people on this ship, and you have the hottest new cast on Broadway today!

I can't say enough about this show. Go with a group of friends. Laugh until your sides ache. Pay no attention if a person next to you checks their watch or doesn't crack a smile because they are the party-poopers on this boat and they need to go down. You need to party until the dawn comes up. I KNOW I'll be returning!

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