Tony Nomination Can't Save 'Disaster!'

Courtesy of Jeremy Daniel
(L-R) Catherine Ricafort, Roger Bart, Baylee Littrell, Seth Rudetsky, Rachel York, Kevin Chamberlin and Olivia Phillip in 'Disaster!'

Despite landing on the featured actress shortlist with Jennifer Simard's inspired comic turn as a nun with a gambling habit, the Broadway musical will close Sunday.

There's got to be a morning after? No, apparently not after Sunday.

Jennifer Simard woke up to good news on Tuesday when Tony Award nominations were announced and she landed on the shortlist for best featured actress in a musical in Disaster! But she'll barely have time to celebrate with the cast now that the show has posted an abrupt closing notice. While the limited run was due to continue through July 3, its final performance will instead be May 8, two months ahead of schedule.

A collaboration between writer-performer Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, who also directed, Disaster! is a campy spoof of 1970s Hollywood schlockbusters like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake, which shoved fading screen stars by the truckload in the path of cataclysmic events.

The standout in a classy cast of bigger-name Broadway veterans, Simard plays Sister Mary, a guitar-strumming nun (think Helen Reddy in Airport 1975) with a secret gambling addiction, who loses her composure when she encounters a deluxe Hawaii Five-O slot machine on board an imperiled floating casino in New York's Hudson River.

The cast also includes Roger Bart, Kerry Butler, Kevin Chamberlin, Adam Pascal, Faith Prince, Rachel York and Rudetsky. Robert Ahrens is lead producer.

Featuring a jukebox score strung together from pop and disco tunes of the era, the show had been an earlier hit off-Broadway. But while it drew some positive reviews, moving it to the Nederlander Theatre for even a short Broadway run seemed a reckless venture — especially in such a competitive season.

It's a standard part of awards season that shows struggling at the box office often throw in the towel when it becomes clear that the hoped-for boost of Tony nominations isn't happening. Even in its best week, Disaster! failed to crack $500,000, more often dipping below $300,000 in half-empty houses. Its cumulative total after 12 weeks on the boards is just $3.9 million, making the title pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The production will have played 32 previews and 72 regular performances by the time it closes. Producers confirmed that a North American licensing deal has been struck for the show with Music Theatre International.

The Nederlander Theatre has already lined up its next tenant — a return engagement of the 2013 hit Motown: The Musical, which closed for an extended hiatus at the start of 2015 in order to scale down into a more budget-friendly touring production. That version begins performances July 12 for a limited run through Nov. 13.

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