When you call your musical Disaster!, you may be tempting the Fates to prove you right. And so it has been for Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick’s very enjoyable spoof of 1970s catastrophe flicks. Originally announced as a limited run through July 3, the show has been struggling at the box office and will now close on Sunday, May 8.
Set on a disco-and-casino boat beset by multiple horrors—including an earthquake, flooding, fire, rats and piranhas—Disaster! is, as I wrote in my review, “a lovably scrappy and often deliciously silly jukebox-musical spoof.” The score is a feast of yummy cheese from the period—songs like “Hot Stuff,” “Feelings” and “I Am Woman”—served up by beloved Broadway troupers Adam Pascal, Kerry Butler, Faith Prince, Roger Bart, Kevin Chamberlin and Rachel York. So why is the show disappearing so fast?
Some people felt that Disaster!’s low-budget aesthetic and over-the-top gags—so effective in its 2013 Off Broadway run—worked less well in a big Broadway house. And in a very crowded season for musicals, with 11 new shows and five revivals, Disaster! has had a hard time getting attention. (Last week, it played to 50% capacity.) Perhaps the show will be more successful in regional productions, where it deserves to have a long afterlife.
But Disaster! is a hoot, and worth catching before it shuffles off this Broadway coil. It shouldn’t be hard to get cheap tickets, and you will never forget Jennifer Simard’s breakout performance as a depressed, guitar-playing, falling-prone, gambling-addicted nun; her version of “Never Can Say Goodbye,” delivered next to a slot machine, is the stuff of musical-comedy legend. (Simard nabbed a well-deserved Tony nomination yesterday for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.)
Disaster! has no pretense of being great art., but it’s great fun. If you can see it this week, go down—and get down—with the ship.