NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 9:00 PM
Faith Prince, Kevin Chamberlin and Kerry Butler rock ’70s fashions and belt hits from the era in “Disaster!”
It takes guts to call a Broadway show “Disaster!” That’s just asking for audiences to say that it lives up to its name.
But this spoof of catastrophe-themed movies set on a floating casino and mixed with ’70s pop hits is not a Titanic — or a jackpot. The campy entertainment lands halfway between.
In other words, it’s not “Hot Stuff,” one of the disco ditties sung as passengers try to escape fiery doom. It’s Tepid Stuff. It’s not sharp enough to be a toothy parody. Or consistently funny enough to be called hilarious. As is, creators Seth Rudetsky, who plays a scientist, and Jack Plotnick, who directs, have come up with something see-worthy but middle-of-the-road.
Off-Broadway in 2013, the show’s rough edges were an essential part of the appeal — a relatively affordable way to have laughs between cocktails. Expectations, along with prices, rise on Broadway.
While scenic elements have been beefed up, the production gets bogged down in excessive exposition in the first act. As flames blaze, water rises and chandeliers crash, there’s too much repetitive running around in the second act.
There are silver linings. One is that songs like “I Am Woman,” “Knock Three Times,” “I Will Survive” and “Feelings” are cleverly threaded into the misadventure. The other is a sterling, mostly new cast of Tony winners and nominees. They give their all as they play caricatures culled from films like “The Poseidon Adventure,” Earthquake” and “The Towering Inferno.”
Roger Bart oozes oiliness as a creep whose corner-cutting leads to cataclysm. Faith Prince crushes it as she channels Shelley Winters a la “Poseidon Adventure.” Rachel York shines as a dim lounge performer with twins. The kids are played by Baylee Littrell in a sight gag that leads to diminishing returns.
Adam Pascal and Kerry Butler ace their roles as exes who still feel the spark. “I probably should have said something first instead of just not showing up at the chapel,” Butler deliciously deadpans. Kevin Chamberlin, Lacretta Nicole and Max Crumm lend fine support.
Last but not least, Jennifer Simard plays a guitar-strumming nun who’s married to God but deep into gambling. Her duet with a slot machine while belting — what else? — “Torn Between Two Lovers” is a little bit of comedy heaven. She sails away with this “Disaster!”