I actually enjoyed those 1970s disaster movies -- the AIRPORT series, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, TOWERING INFERNO. They had their own set of conventions, as rigid in some ways as those of a baroque opera, but they were campy fun, greatly because they were so earnest. Poor Karen Black trying to land that 747, poor Shelley Winters on that upside-down ship. I'm sure some people took them seriously, but I always found them amusing. Of course Hollywood quickly took to spoofing its own product with the AIRPLANE series and other parodies. Now in a dingy little theatre on 46th Street (a reminder of what Off-Broadway theaters used to be like), we have DISASTER, a zany parody of these movies with dozens of 70s pop hits thrown in. As in MAMMA MIA, part of the fun is in how the songs are worked into the score -- just when and how will they sing "Feelings" (yes, they do!). We have the fat lady a la Shelley Winters, hilariously played by Mary Testa, the singing nun (Jennifer Simard - wonderful), the Black diva with the dog, the crooked owner of the doomed ship (here a floating casino in the Hudson). I have to single out young Jonah Verdon who plays boy/girl twins. In this cast of fourteen singing comics, he manages to be the funniest.
Written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick and directed by Plotnick (at the performance I saw he was also covering for one of the leads), DISASTER is tacky and very, very funny. Everybody in the cast can sing well and do the spastic seventies dance moves. And, miracle of miracles, it never flags over its two-plus hours. It's also great to hear those tunes again in this context.
A warning, the theatre has fifteen or so rows on the same level in a low-ceiling room that was a restaurant -- minimal risers. If you're short, get a seat up front.
DISASTER. St. Luke's Theatre. November 27, 2013.