|Jennifer Simard, Mary Testa|
Photo: Jeremy Daniel
The premise is simple: Disaster! is a musical spoof of disaster films, using songs from the 1970s. It features a lot of the jokes you might predict, but with twists that make them funnier, plus jokes and situations and visuals that are surprising and wonderful. Under Denis Jones's insanely creative direction, the small space bursts with action and fun and inspired silliness. And the helicopter rescue is a delight.Some things have changed in this new production. The director is now Plotnick (though the choreography is still by Denis Jones), and Rudetsky is the only performer remaining from the earlier cast. But more important is what stayed the same: Disaster! is still surprising and wonderful; it's still insanely creative; it still has an amazingly talented, energetic, somewhat insane cast, including Mary Testa, Matt Farcher, Haven Burton, and Jennifer Simard.
Impressively, the songs aren't shoehorned in. As a matter of fact, one or two are weaved in so well that they seem written for the show. As just one example, Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" becomes an effective opening number with a surprising range of interpretations.
Seeing Disaster! a second time allowed me to examine the structure and writing more closely. This is a smart piece of silliness. Rudetsky and Plotnick set up the plot and characters with great economy, use the songs brilliantly, gracefully combine complete silliness with higher-level silliness, and, perhaps most importantly, know when to pull back. Every time it feels like the show is losing steam or going on too long, Rudetsky and Plotnick throw in a surprise or go in a different direction or come up with just the right mash-up of song, satire, and panache. And even when the show seems to be reaching too low, it isn't. (I wish I could give examples, but you really don't want me to spoil anything.)
It takes a certain meticulousness to make a show seem this crazed, this spontaneous, this gorgeously giddy. I tip my hat to everyone who worked on Disaster! and I urge you to go see it.
(row G, press ticket)