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Disaster! is a musical comedy created by Seth Rudetsky, and written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick. Earthquakes, tidal waves, infernos and the songs of the '70s take center stage in this comedic homage to 1970s disaster films.

A 70s Disaster Movie Musical!
Key art of the 2016 Broadway Production
BookJack Plotnick
Seth Rudetsky
SettingNew York City, 1979
PremiereMarch 8, 2012 (2012-03-08): Triad Theatre, New York City
Productions2012 Off-Broadway
2013 Off-Broadway
2015 Los Angeles Benefit Concert
2016 Broadway
2016 London Benefit Concert

The show debuted at Triad Theatre, now renamed Stage 72, with choreography by Denis Jones and music supervision by Steve Marzullo on January 22, 2012 and ran through March 25 in its first production.[1] A second production ran from November 2013 through April 2014 at New York's St. Luke's Theatre.[2] The show opened on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on March 8, 2016, with previews beginning on February 9, 2016. The show starred Rudetsky, along with Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince, Rachel York, Max Crumm and Jennifer Simard. Baylee Littrell (son of Brian Littrell) and Lacretta Nicole made their Broadway debuts. The show closed on May 8, 2016, after playing 32 previews and 72 regular performances.[3]

The plot follows a group of New Yorkers attends the opening of a floating casino and discothèque that quickly succumbs to multiple disasters. These calamities correlate with plots of various disaster films of the 1970s, such as earthquakes or killer bee incidents. Additionally, this play keeps with a 1970s theme by being a jukebox musical, using popular songs of the decade as musical numbers.[4]


Inception and early developmentEdit

Origins go back to the early 1990s. While working together in 1992, Seth Rudetsky and Drew Geraci developed the concept of creating a musical reminiscent of the 70s disaster films they both appreciated. The original storyline involved the New York City blackout of 1977 and incorporated the decade's top songs as both musical numbers and vehicles for comedy.[5]

When Rudetsky was asked in 2011 to put on a show benefiting the nonprofit organization Only Make Believe, he decided to return to his disaster musical idea, and in the span of three months, he and Jack Plotnick revised the concept and wrote the first script of Disaster!. Major changes included widening the plot's range: instead of focusing on one disaster, the NYC blackout, they decided to introduce a variety of catastrophes common to the popular films of the 1970s that they had grown up watching.[5] The benefit show successfully impressed critics, and from its success, the musical later had a nine show Off-Off-Broadway run before being made into an Off-Broadway production.[6]

A Broadway production directed by Plotnick opened in March 2016 at the Nederlander Theatre, with an all-star cast and choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter. The show was produced by Robert Ahrens, Mickey Liddell/LD Entertainment, Hunter Arnold, James Wesley, Jim Burba and Bob Hayes.[7] The Broadway production closed on May 8, 2016, having run for 32 previews and 72 regular performances.[8] A cast album was released on September 9, 2016.[9]


Disaster! takes place in 1979 Manhattan during opening night of the Barracuda, the first floating casino and discothèque in New York.[4] The characters gather to gamble and dance, unaware of impending natural disasters, and the building's lack of safety measures compounds these catastrophes. Notably, the casino's structure was built on a fault line, which causes earthquakes throughout the show.[10] The plot follows several characters' dynamics and interactions throughout the opening night as they deal with various plot elements reminiscent of 1970s disaster cult films such as The Poseidon Adventure and Airport 1975.[11]

Act OneEdit

It's 1979 and the opening night for “The Barracuda", New York City's first floating casino. Chad Rubik is looking for female company ("Hot Stuff") and decides to join his best friend, Scott, as a waiter aboard the casino boat. Meanwhile, on the pier, Professor Ted Scheider is collecting water samples to determine whether the new pier has been drilled directly into a dangerous fault line. Marianne, a freelance reporter, has heard that Tony Delvecchio, the owner of the Barracuda, ran out of money and had to cut corners. He asks her to join him onboard for some drinks and she agrees, hoping to get a scoop.

While the guests wait in line, a dour Sister Mary Downey appears, collecting money for the orphans fund and warning people that gambling is a sin ("The Lord's Prayer"). She meets Shirley and Maury Summers, who are celebrating Maury's retirement. Despite the Sister's protestations, Shirley buys her a ticket and she enters the casino. Faded disco star Levora Verona runs onto the pier with her precious dog, Baby. She successfully avoids a cab driver she can’t afford to pay and gets on board, hoping she’ll win back her fortune ("Mahogany").

Inside her casino dressing room, sexy lounge singer Jackie excitedly tells her children, 11-year-old twins Ben and Lisa, that Tony told her, “If tonight goes perfectly, he will ask me to marry him... possibly!” Tony enters just as a tremor shakes the room, causing Ben's Lite-Brite toy to fall to the ground. Ben cries as he notices that "The Lite-Brite pieces are lost in the shag carpeting!" Tony explains that the tremor was probably caused by nearby construction and tells Ben that he should never, ever cry. Jackie then goes onstage to wow the opening night crowd ("Saturday Night"). During her number, Scheider warns Tony that the vibrations from everyone dancing is going to trigger an earthquake and Tony angrily throws him off the ship.

Meanwhile, Sister Mary is practically salivating over a Hawaii Five-O-themed slot machine but when noticed by Shirley, adamantly denies having a gambling addiction. Marianne tries to interview Tony but he's only interested in one thing, ("Do You Wanna Make Love"). She accuses him of having a trap door installed at the bottom of the ship to dump illegal contraband and produces proof that he skipped safety precautions. Tony panics, but is able to sneak away when Marianne freezes at the sight of Chad who has offered them drinks. Shaken, she apologizes to Chad for leaving him at the altar years ago. He tells her it's “fine", and then retreats to the bathroom to express his true feelings ("Without You"). Hurt by Chad's indifference, Marianne drinks an entire bottle of wine, then runs into Lisa and tries to convince her (and herself) that being an independent woman is the most important thing in the world ("I Am Woman/That's the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be").

Jackie is in her dressing room when Scheider runs in to hide. He explains that an earthquake is coming and enlists Ben and Lisa to run and tell the captain to ready the lifeboats. Tony suddenly enters and Scheider quickly throws on a bird mask. Jackie covers by telling Tony that Scheider is a performer she hired and drags him onstage ("Mockingbird").

Shirley and Maury run into a depressed Marianne, who is surprised to find out they’re married because they “seem so happy”. They admit that marriage is hard but tell her that they still love each other dearly ("Still the One"). While Scheider hides out with Jackie, he reveals that his first wife, Dr. Wo-Ching Lee, died in a volcanic explosion and he feels responsible. Since then, he's become a disaster expert and tells Jackie one of the main rules is not to try to save individual lives. When Jackie leaves to perform, we see three private moments: Chad sings about Marianne, Marianne sings about Chad, and Scheider sings about Wo ("Feelings").

In the casino, Sister Mary's out-of-tune guitar upsets Baby. Levora is extremely insulted because Sister doesn’t know any of her hit songs (including “Makin’ Sweet Sweet Love” and “Put It Where I Want It”). Levora leaves in a huff, unknowingly dropping a quarter. Sister Mary knows she should give it to the orphans, but imagines gambling it and winning them more. Nonetheless, she tries to walk away from the slot machine but is unable to ("Never Can Say Goodbye").

Sister ultimately gambles away all the fund money. She bumps into Shirley on the elevator and they ride in uncomfortable silence, interrupted only by elevator music ("Feels So Good"). Suddenly, Shirley reveals that she has a fatal disease, and explains that she’ll soon show the final warning signs, like uncontrollable winking and inappropriate verbal outbursts. She hasn’t told Maury because she wants whatever time they have left to “only be happy". Shirley shyly suggests she might soon end it all because she doesn’t want Maury to have to watch her suffer. The Sister tells her unequivocally that taking one's life is a sin and an eternity in Hell will await her if she does it. Ben and Lisa run into Chad and tell him that an earthquake is coming and he immediately runs off to warn Marianne.

In the casino, a wealthy woman approaches Levora and offers to buy Baby for an extraordinary sum. Levora can’t bear to part with the only thing she's ever loved, yet she has only one quarter left to gamble and gain back her fortune. She knocks on the wood-paneled slot machine for luck and talks to Baby ("Knock on Wood"). Soon, various patrons are knocking along with her, on the machines, the floor... everything.

While this is happening, Marianne confronts Tony about the safety precautions and runs away as he tries to throw her off the boat. Chad sees Marianne hiding and tells her to get off the boat, but she misunderstands, thinking Tony has sent him. Scheider has heard the knocking and runs to the casino to warn everyone they’re going to trigger an earthquake. They stop and start to tiptoe off the boat, but Levora has put in her quarter and wins ("Hawaii 5-0"). All the coins pouring out of the machine hit the floor and trigger an enormous earthquake.

Act TwoEdit

Act Two opens ("All Right Now") to reveal massive destruction in the casino as well as the Hawaii Five-O slot machine lever impaled in Scott's stomach. Chad arrives and tries to get Scott to safety ("You’re My Best Friend")†, but Scott dies. Shirley, Maury, Jackie and Lisa are all in Jackie's dressing room but Jackie soon leaves to find Ben, who's missing. In a deserted hallway, Tony explains to his right-hand man that the earthquake actually solved his problems. It will be considered a force majeure and all of his debt will be paid. And he's positive he’ll end the night being seen as a hero.

Chad is on the deck to give Scott a burial at sea and runs into the wealthy man, whose wife was killed by a falling ice sculpture ("Three Times a Lady"). While waiting in Jackie's dressing room, Shirley starts showing signs of her impending death (inappropriate verbal outbursts) and Lisa discovers Ben, who is passed out because of his diabetes. Lisa volunteers to carry Ben to the infirmary to get insulin and Maury and Shirley follow.

On the way they meet the sister, who is praying for death because she thinks that the earthquake was her punishment. She's certain that God wants her in hell but Shirley convinces her that God actually wants her to help other people and they all set off for the insulin. Lisa spies the infirmary and they run to it ("Ben"). Ben is revived in the nick of time. Everyone in the casino is panicking because the earthquake has caused the boat to detach from the pier, but Tony is calm and directs people to the lifeboats. However, Scheider warns that a tidal wave is coming and quickly ushers them into a hallway. Upon learning this, Marianne runs out onto the deck and gets Chad off his lifeboat ("Baby Hold On to Me") and back onto the ship. The tidal wave hits and the ship turns upside down. Scheider assures everyone that the safest thing to do is stay put, but Tony boasts that he’ll save everyone through an exit ladder in the kitchen. Scheider objects, but Tony assures them the kitchen has fire doors and is therefore safe, so half the survivors, including Jackie, Ben and Lisa leave with him. The others choose to wait it out with Scheider ("25 or 6 to 4"). There is an explosion from the kitchen and only Tony reappears. Scheider realizes Tony lied about the fire doors, and they all express their anger at him, as Chad also shares his anger with Marianne for not showing up to their wedding ("Sky High").

Jackie and her children survived the blast but are hanging from a wall. She hopes Tony will come and rescue them, but the kids know better ("When Will I Be Loved"). Scheider decides to buck his own rules, braves the fire, and arrives to rescue them with a daring routine on a high beam ("Nadia's Theme"). On their way back to the casino, they hear Tony, who's trapped in a flooded room with sharks ("Don't Cry Out Loud"). The explosion has separated Levora from her dog, Baby. The sister appears and helps Levora find him by strumming her guitar until he barks ("Come to Me").

Marianne admits to Chad she did love him, but was scared their marriage would make them as miserable as her parents. They find themselves in a room that's flooding and filled with man-eating piranhas. The only way to escape is through a water-tight door, but it's locked. Perched together atop a pile of chairs, Chad admits he regrets not calling her for years. ("I Really Want to See You Tonight"). Suddenly, they hear sounds above them and start banging Morse code on the ceiling, screaming for help ("Knock Three Times").

In the casino, Jackie and her kids reappear and Tony thanks Scheider for rescuing him. He tells little Ben that it's good to cry every day, to which Ben responds, "I already do." Tony tries to reconnect with Jackie but she decides to end their relationship ("I Will Survive"). Shirley hears Chad and Marianne's Morse code and Scheider informs her that he has instructions on how to unlock the door in his Disaster Handbook. Shirley tells him she was a tap dance champion and will tap out the instructions. The Sister quietly asks Shirley if it's wise to exert herself because it might lead to death but Shirley tells her she might as well “go out helping people”, and the Sister blesses her decision. Shirley taps out the instructions ("A Fifth of Beethoven"), Chad and Marianne are saved and pledge their love for each other ("Reunited") and Shirley dies in Maury's arms.

A swarm of rats attack so everyone rushes to safety in Tony's private office where Tony apologizes for everything and finally admits there is a trapdoor on the bottom of the ship. Ben points out that the ship is upside down and, therefore, the trap door is on the ceiling. They all escape onto the top of the ship as the sun rises ("Daybreak"). A helicopter appears and drops harnesses. As a survivors buckle themselves in, Scheider reveals his feelings for Jackie ("Hooked On a Feeling") and they all begin flying off to safety. Because the pier was destroyed, the helicopter is taking them to New Jersey. When Levora hears where they’re heading, she exclaims, "New Jersey? This is the worst disaster yet!"

† "You're My Best Friend" does not appear in the internationally licensed version of the production.[12]


Main named characters.[13]

  • Ted Scheider: A professor and "disaster expert" who tries to warn the others of the impending doom.
  • Tony Delvecchio: The deceitful owner of the casino.
  • Chad Rubik: A flirtatious caterer at the casino who was previously engaged to Marianne.
  • Scott: Friend of Chad's and also a caterer at the casino.
  • Marianne Wilson: Reporter and ex-fiancée of Chad. She left him to pursue her career.
  • Jackie Noelle: Lounge singer and mother. She is hoping that Tony will propose.
  • Ben and Lisa Noelle: Jackie's twins. Played by one male actor.
  • Levora Verona: A washed up singer hoping to hit it big in the casino.
  • Sister Mary Downey: A nun with a gambling addiction.
  • Maury Winters: The devoted husband of Shirley.
  • Shirley Winters: The wife of Maury.


Principal and replacement cast members of the Triad Theatre and St. Luke's Theatre productions.

Character Triad Theater
St. Luke's Theatre
previous cast
St. Luke's Theatre
cast Spring
Nederlander Theatre
Marianne Wilson Carrie Manolakos Haven Burton Maggie McDowell Kerry Butler
Levora Verona Lacretta Nicole Charity Dawson Lacretta Nicole
Tony Delvecchio Clif Thorn John Treacy Egan
Jack Plotnick[18]
Paul Castree
David Hibbard
Roger Bart
Chad Rubick Zak Resnick Matt Farcher Adam Pascal
Maury Winters Tom Riis Farrell Kevin Chamberlin
Jackie Noelle Lauren Kennedy Michele Ragusa
Mary Birdsong
Stacey Oristano
Sarah Litzsinger
Rachel York
Professor Ted Scheider Seth Rudetsky
Scott Paul Castree Robb Sapp Max Crumm
Sister Mary Downey Anika Larsen Jennifer Simard
Ben/Lisa Noelle Clark Kelley Oliver Jonah Verdon Baylee Littrell
Shirley Winters Kathy Fitzgerald
Annie Golden [19]
Mary Testa
Annie Golden
Judy Gold Faith Prince
Wealthy Husband/Taxi Driver/
Security Guard/Chef
Saum Eskandani N/A
Woman Who Screams Sherz Aletaha N/A
Wealthy Wife Spring Groove Maggie McDowell Kristy Cavanaugh N/A
Workman#2/Taxi Driver/

Wealthy Husband

Manoel Felciano
Paul Castree

†Tony Delvecchio was played by Will Swenson for one week while Bart was on leave -- May 1–7, 2016.

Musical numbersEdit

Songs performed in Disaster![4][20]

Additional songs

Critical receptionEdit

Disaster!'s interpretation of disaster films from the 1970s has garnered praise.

The musical has received positive reviews from various respected news outlets. The New York Daily News named Disaster! one of its top ten must-see musicals for 2013, claiming that "This spoof of catastrophe-themed movies mixed with ’70s pop hits gushes with Velveeta as well as laughs, great new talents and savvy jukebox craftsmanship.”[21] Time Out New York critic and president of New York Drama Critics' Circle Adam Feldman rated the show five stars, stating, "I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at the theater as often as I did at Disaster!...with meticulous ingenuity, the show repurposes three dozen classic tunes from the Me Decade to often hilarious effect.” The New York Times Charles Isherwood called the show "self-consciously ditzy," saying that it really "earns that exclamation point."[4]

Awards and nominationsEdit

2013 Off-Broadway ProductionEdit

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2014 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Jennifer Simard Nominated
Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Nominated

2016 Broadway ProductionEdit

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2016 Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Musical Jennifer Simard Nominated
Drama League Awards Distinguished Performance Nominated
Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Baylee Littrell Nominated


  1. ^ "Seth Rudetsky's DISASTER Extends Through March 25; Annie Golden & Felicia Finley Join Cast". Broadway World. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  2. ^ Gans, Andrew (27 Mar 2014). "Disaster! Will End Off-Broadway Run in April". Playbill. Archived from the original on 28 March 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ "Disaster! to Close on Broadway". Theatermania. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Charles Isherwood (6 November 2013). "Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Relive the '70s". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 13 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b Rudetsky, Seth (30 Jan 2012). "ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: From Texas to Disaster!". Playbill. p. 3. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ "Cast and Creatives of Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick's Disaster! Meet the Press". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  7. ^ Viagas, Robert (November 5, 2015), "Seth Rudetsky's Disaster! Musical Headed for Broadway with Adam Pascal and Faith Prince",, retrieved January 5, 2016
  8. ^ Disaster! Announces Closing Date, retrieved 13 May 2016
  9. ^ DISASTER! Cast Will Reunite to Record Cast Album; Release Set for September 9, retrieved 16 May 2016
  10. ^ Kennedy, Marina (7 Nov 2013). "Disaster! A 1970's Disaster Movie Musical – Hilarity Survives". Women Around Town. Archived from the original on 7 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (5 November 2013). "Musical 'Disaster!' is anything but as it pays tribute to 1970s flicks". New York Post. p. 1. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  12. ^ Music Theatre International, retrieved 13 October 2016
  13. ^ Pflaster, Duncan (5 November 2013). "BWW Reviews: DISASTER!: Hope Floats". p. 1. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  14. ^ MacDonald, Sandy (31 January 2012). "Seth Rudetsky's Disaster!". Theater Mania. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  15. ^ Bellino, Damian (6 January 2014). "Look Out! Stacey Oristano, Annie Golden & Judy Gold Join Disaster!". Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  16. ^ "DISASTER!'s Stacey Oristano to Appear 2/11 on WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE". Broadway World. 10 February 2014. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  17. ^ Lloyd Webber, Imogen (5 November 2015). "Look Out! All-Star Disaster! Will Hit Broadway, Starring Adam Pascal, Roger Bart, Faith Prince & More". Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  18. ^ Gans, Andrew (7 November 2013). "Jack Plotnick Will Join Cast of Off-Broadway's Disaster!". Playbill. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew (20 January 2014). "Off-Broadway's Disaster! Welcomes Annie Golden Jan. 20". Playbill. Archived from the original on 7 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  20. ^ "DISASTER! announces new cast members". New York Theater Guide. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  21. ^ Dziemianowicz, Joe (22 December 2013). "Top 10 in Theater for 2013: 'Fun Home,' 'Twelfth Night,' 'The Glass Menagerie' were all worth a standing ovation". New York Daily News. Retrieved 6 March 2014.

External linksEdit