Theater review: ‘Disaster!’

The Off-Broadway musical comedy "Disaster!," a low-budget tribute to 1970s disaster films such as "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Towering Inferno" and "Airport" that also integrates numerous hit singles of the period, manages to be both an affectionate parody of the movie genre and an unusually artful jukebox musical.

"Disaster!" observes the chaos that erupts on a ship containing a chic disco-casino parked outside of Manhattan when an earthquake hits. The survivors are then attacked by tidal waves, killer bees, sharks and piranhas. The characters are familiar types such as the scientist, shady businessman, nun, old married couple and so on.

Seth Rudetsky, who co-wrote the show with its director Jack Plotnick and also appears in the ensemble cast, is widely known from his Sirius XM radio show and for hosting numerous live events as a musical theater know-it-all with an impressive ability to dissect and critique the vocal abilities of well-known singers.

"Disaster!" takes ridiculousness to an extreme that, at its best, can be hilarious and inspired. The lead-in dialogue preceding all of the songs is especially clever.

Even so, the show, which runs 21/2 hours, would benefit from judicious editing in order to bring it into tighter form.

The entire cast, from Rudetsky to Broadway regular Mary Testa, embraces the campy spirit. But it is Jonah Verdon, a young boy who alternates between playing twins of the opposite sex by quickly altering his voice and switching hats, who wins the award for unforgettable performance.

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