“Disaster!” is likely one of the funniest musicals ever to rock the stage. At the same time, it parodies 1970s disaster movies but then manages to poke fun at the trend of current jukebox musicals on Broadway stages. It’s slapstick humor and good natured ribbing might easily win over even the toughest audience.
The loose story has a gathering of folks who are going on a new casino on a boat in which corners were cut in the boat’s production, which may hinder the passengers safety should several disasters come their way like earthquakes and tidal waves. The title naturally kills any suspense because disasters do come up in the doomed vessel at sea.
All the disaster movie characters and outrageous situations are represented here – right down to the singing nun.
Like a jukebox musical, writers Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick manage to plot together a very cohesive and tongue-in-cheek story, connecting it with 1970s classic songs – good and bad. They didn’t even have to resort to the love theme from many of those movies sung by Maureen McGovern as they found enough songs unrelated to the disaster film classics to entertain its audience while advancing the plot.
It could have been a true disaster if it wasn’t for the uniformly excellent cast – including Rudetsky.
Yet there are really some standouts that should be noted.
ANYTHING that stars Mary Testa is a definite must-see. She is a great comedic actress and has the big diva voice to command any stage. She’s wonderful in everything and doesn’t disappoint here in the role of Shirley, the kind of Shelly Winters part (even though she certainly is a lot sexier than Winters). Not to spoil it, but her last big number that involves the whole ensemble is a R-I-O-T!
Haven Burton and Matt Farcher make for beautiful lovers, anchoring the show. Both are very attractive and in Broadway-love-ballad mode for the entire show while ridiculous situations engulf them….they are pretty much the straight parts to the comedy around them. Sometimes playing it straight in a rollicking spoof is tougher than it looks.
Then there’s Jonah Verdon who plays twins Ben and Lisa. Not only does he embody every child star from disaster movies, but he does it twice, often with only seconds to change from Ben to Lisa. He is a good singer and truly knows how to work an audience. What a find!
I could go on about EVERYONE…really…but need to single out just one more performer – Jennifer Simard as Sister Mary. This actress redefines deadpan as every line she utters is delivered so straight but what she says will bring you to the floor in laughter. And the girl can sing too! Tough to do with this amazing cast, but she steals the show!
“DIsaster!” is a great option for visiting theatregoers who may want to save a few bucks from a Broadway show (and remain in the great Restaurant Row neighborhood) and still get to hear a bunch of popular songs a la “Mamma Mia.” But this mother of a show sets sail for your funny bone and hits every cliche along the way. And in the case of “Disaster!” that’s a good thing.
“Disaster!” is playing at the St. Luke’s Theatre, which has different shows on various nights. It’s currently extended through at least March so make a plan to catch the boat before it sets sea without you. To get tickets and more information, go to www.disastermusical.com.