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Theatre / Disaster!

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Disaster! is a Jukebox Musical written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnik and which is a parody of melodramatic disaster movies - specifically those from the 1970s. Floating casino/discotheque Barracuda is celebrating its opening night while numerous plots unfurl inside it - Chad and Scott are waiters attempting to pick up girls while Chad is confronted by the presence of his ex-fiancee, Marianne Wilson, a reporter attempting to uncover a story about the owner of the Barracuda, Tony del Vecchio, cutting corners in the construction. Meanwhile, Sister Mary Downy (a nun with a former gambling addiction) strikes up a friendship with married couple Shirley and Maury, discovering that Shirley is keeping her terminal illness a secret from her husband. Jackie, a lounge singer hired by Tony to celebrate the opening, has to deal with her twin children Ben and Lisa, as well as warnings from noted disaster expert Professor Ted Schneider that there will be an imminent earthquake. After one vibration too many from all the dancing and slot machines, the earthquake is finally triggered...though that's only the first disaster of many.


The musical was originally conceived and written in 2012, receiving three tryouts before finally making it to Broadway in 2016. The show pays homage to (and parodies) many '70s disaster movies, as well as many tropes associated with jukebox musicals.

This musical provides examples of:

  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Several of the characters have a tendency to get distracted by insignificant things. More than once, it doesn't end well for them.
  • Black Comedy: All over the place, not least because of the song choices. For example, Scott dies while he and Chad sing the upbeat "You're My Best Friend" to each other.
  • Brick Joke: An almost literal example. It's mentioned a few times that Chad is good at devising puzzles. At the end of the show he talks about a new idea he's had - a cube made of different colour squares. Immediately after this, his last name is revealed to be "Rubik".
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  • Cerebus Syndrome: The disasters in the show are generally Lighter and Softer than their movie counterparts and are mostly Played for Laughs...until 11-year-old Ben is revealed to be diabetic and is subsequently on the verge of dying unless he gets insulin. Even Ben being a puppet doesn't stop the moment when Lisa thinks her brother has died from being a little upsetting.
  • Chekhov's Gun: We're told quite a few times about the existence of a trapdoor at the bottom of the boat. That trapdoor is ultimately what allows the group to escape.
  • Deus ex Machina: The planes that ultimately come to rescue everyone could be seen as this.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Besides the initial earthquake, there's then all the safety issues on Barracuda to be afraid of - including man-eating piranhas, sharks, carnivorous rats, no windows (since it's a casino) and no fire safety doors.
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  • Excited Show Title!: Disaster!
  • Foreshadowing: Tony puts his hand on the glass of the aquarium containing the piranhas and they instantly try to eat it. Tony eventually loses both his arms to sharks while the piranhas are revealed to be man-eating.
  • Happy Ending: The majority of the main characters survive and are air-carried to safety.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A variation. Shirley uses this as her reasoning for why she doesn't tell her husband about her impending death.
    Shirley: I want whatever time we have left to always be happy.
  • Jukebox Musical: Made up of popular songs from the 1970s.
  • Made of Incendium: Among Barracuda's many many shortcomings is the fact that the kitchen isn't fireproofed and a single spark would be enough to cause an explosion.
  • Mama Bear: Jackie has many failings, but when either of her children goes missing, she'll search the entire boat to find them.
  • Mood Whiplash: Lisa carrying a puppet-Ben on her shoulders? Kind of funny. Lisa cradling said puppet-Ben and singing about how much she loves him when it seems he's died? Cue the tissues...
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Chad and Marianne are about to launch into a love duet after a near-death experience...only for Professor Schneider to put a quick stop to it.
    Schneider: We don't have time for this!
  • Off the Wagon: Sister Mary had a gambling problem before becoming a what could possibly go wrong with her being in a casino..?
  • Only Sane Man: Professor Schneider barely puts a foot wrong when it comes to dealing with the disasters, and most things that do go wrong happen as a direct result of people ignoring his warnings and advice.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: The show is set in the '70s, though apart from a few costuming choices (and all the songs coming from that time period), it could really be set in almost any period over the last 50 years.
  • Toilet Humour: A subdued example when Scott is revealed to have been in the toilets while Chad was singing his Grief Song (complete with flailing on the floor).
    Chad: Did... Did you hear any of that?
    Scott: No. (Beat) Did you hear any of that? (gestures to the toilet cubicle)

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