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A CurtainUp Review
Why does the boat keep shaking? — Lisa
I didn't feel anything. — Marianne
The above title of this new musical is not a critique. Disaster! is, however, a feverishly daffy musical parody of the disaster movie genre. Co-authored by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick (who also directs), the show had a successful Off Broadway run three years ago.
The Broadway production is bigger, louder, funnier, and even better . Now how did that happen? Significantly recast for the most part with a number of major league performers, this cartoon of a show is a perfect showcase for these interpreters of old fashioned slapstick and vaudevillian-esque shtick. In many ways, the production-enhanced show is uniquely conceived and a perfectly giddy antidote for many of the more high-minded entertainments now on Broadway.
Faith Prince,Kevin Chamberlin,Kerry Butler
(Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel)
Whether this send-up is everyone's cup of tea remains to be seen. It's safe to recommend it as a family show that older children will find as much fun as the grownups.
Unless I missed an invasion from Mars, this show includes virtually every horrifyingly calamitous event known to mankind. The number of biological and geological disasters that have been included to enhance the wonderfully inane story is enough to satisfy the most insatiable fans of these movies.
Plotnick has directed his splendid company to a fare-thee-well in a non-stop barrage of tragi-comical incidents. They are all strung together with popular songs from the Disco-intense 1970s, many of which are cannily complimentary to the action.
But where would this loony lark be without each member of the cast being able to find a comical hook on each of the endearingly diverse collection of characters? How can our interest wane as we watch them struggling to stay alive as all hell and more breaks loose on an ill-fated, floating gambling casino in New York harbor?
Too many details would spoil the fun, but here are just a few key
plot points. An unscrupulous entrepreneur tries to get away with ignoring safety codes while former lovers are reunited perhaps for the last time. A Nun once addicted to gambling tries to resist the pull of her past and the one-arm bandit all the while a dotty diva attempts to revitalize her past while carting around her precocious twin children. A desperate woman is intent on keeping her husband from finding out that she is dying as her symptoms,too outrageous to mention, escalate.
Expect to see more victims and/or survivors among this surprisingly large cast for a semi small-scaled musical. But more importantly, finding out how many will remain alive to celebrate in an ingeniously funny rescue-by-helicopter finale that's a true eat-your-heart-out Miss Saigon moment.
An important change to the production are the grandiose sets newly designed by Tobin Ost. Those who remember the Off Broadway production may miss the slapdash floors and ceilings, cheesy walls and whatnots that added to the fun. But I am not about to complain about the more glittery and more awesomely destructible settings that, under Jeff Croiter's flickering, purposefully short-circuiting lighting get deserved rounds of applause.
Keeping up with the cast (at least those who survive) as they careen through the wreckage is half the fun. Credit some of that fun to choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter who keeps a small ensemble of disco dancers lively between the cataclysmic events. Leave it to costume designer William Ivey Long to bring added whimsical dimensions to the show.
The wonder of this show is that though the characters are stereotypical archetypes they all also have dimensions that make us root for them. Outstanding among the over-all splendid cast is Roger Bart, at his most unctuous as the corrupt entrepreneur and author Rudestsky as his nemesis, the all death and destruction prophesying professor.
Also terrific are Adam Pascal, the romantic leading man with good looks and a great voice and a charming Kerry Butler, as the girl from his past. . .the hilarious Jennifer Simard who is reprising her role as the obsessive/compulsive Nun . . . the incredibly versatile Baylee Littrell as both brother and sister. . . Rachel York, as the curvaceous but vacuous diva. . ., and a sublimely funny Faith Prince as the valiant wife with "issues."
Some cleverly operated puppets deserve kudos as do the nice selection of body parts. The score (see the song list after the production notes) is comprised of classics that will undoubtedly bring smiles of recognition to your face. What a delightful disaster this turned out to be.
Editor's note: To read Jacob Horn's review of the Off-Broadway production, go here
Disaster by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick |
Directed by Jack Plotnick
Cast: Adam Pascal (Chad), Max Crumm (Scott), Seth Rudetsky (Professor Ted Scheider), Roger Bart (Tony), Kerry Butler (Marianne), Jennifer Simard (Sister Mary Downy), Faith Prince (Shirley), Kevin Chamberlin (Maury), Lacretta Nicole (Levora), Rachel York (Jackie), Baylee Littrell (Ben/Lisa), Manoel Felciano, Casey Garvin, Travis Kent, Maggie McDowell, Olivia Phillip, Cahterine Ricafort (Casino Guests and Staff)
Scenic Design: Tobin Ost
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter
Sound Design: Mark Menard
Wig and hair Design: Paul Huntley
Makek-Up Artist: Ann Ford-Coates
Fight Direction: Rick Sordelet, Christian Kelly-Sordelet
Music Direction: Steve Marzullo
Music-Coordinator: Charles Gsordon
Musical Arrangements and Scoring: Joseph Joubert
Vocal Arrangements: Michael McElroy
Dance Arrangements: David Dabbon
Choreographer: JoAnn M. Hunter
Production Stage Manager: Paul J. Smith
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes including intermission
Nederlander Theatre, 208 W. 41st Street
Performances: Monday, Wednesday, Friday at Saturday Evening at 8 pm; Thursday evenings at 7 pm; Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm; Saturday matinee at 2 pm; Sunday matinee at 2:30 pm.
From 2/09/16; opening 3/08/16; open ended -- changed to 5/08/16 closing
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 03/05/16
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