ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: A Musical Disaster Is Moving Off-Broadway

By Seth Rudetsky
16 Sep 2013

Zak Resnick
Dena's son owns the downtown club called "The Box" and he gave us a deal to do the show there. I was excited to be in a new space, but I didn't realize The Box is a modern-day burlesque house. What do I mean? Well, when we first got there to rehearse, let's just say we were "surprised" by what we saw. The downstairs bathrooms are very... interesting. For instance, one toilet has stirrups (!) next to it and a mirror on the ceiling. Think about it. Nonetheless, we performed the whole show, it sold out and the audience went crazy. A big-time Broadway producer was in the audience and decided to do a workshop of the show. We quickly hauled it up again for two performances and had an amazing time. Then... nothing. We didn't know if were supposed to wait for an offer from him, wait for an offer from a regional house or what.

A few months passed and my not-yet husband James and I were sitting at Aroma on 72nd Street and trying to figure out where to do Disaster. Should we pitch it to an out-of-town theatre? I was not into it, because I'd have to leave town for weeks. Suddenly James pointed across the street and said, "Why not put it up yourself at the Triad?" After a lot of me saying it wouldn't work because the stage is too small, we decided it was a great idea. Most of the cast/creative team were still available and we decided to do the show on Sundays. Joe Trentacosta from Springer Associates signed on as our publicist and sent out reviewer invitations, but I assumed they would wait a while to come. Our first performance went very well, but it was really difficult doing the show with so many days in between performances. Our backstage was always filled with everyone hunched over their scripts, seeing what the next scene was. And people were constantly running lines to themselves because it was hard to remember anything after six days off. On the third performance it was worse than ever.

I play Dr. Ted Scheider, the disaster expert, and at one point I was supposed to run onstage, make an announcement, have someone tell me to be quiet and then yell, "Let me speak." Well, I started speaking and no one told me to be quiet. Wonderful. I guess I could have improv'd something, but instead I bizarrely became a total purist and stuck to the script. In other words after an awkward silence waiting for the line telling me to stop talking, I suddenly said for no reason, "Let me speak!" The audience was like, "No one isn't letting you speak. What's happening?" That was just one of the many mishaps of the night. I was actually sitting backstage with my head in my hands because I couldn't believe how many things were going wrong. Well, as luck would have it, it was the night that Joe Trentacosta sent the New York Times to review us! Luckily, I didn't find out until our leading man, Zak Resnick, texted me with, "Um…I think we just got an amazing New York Times review," and I went to the link. Regardless of my trauma, the review had quotes like "triumph," "irresistible" and the last sentence was, "You'll be tickled and, despite your best judgment, probably singing along." Wowza! It just goes to show that one's perception onstage is not the same as from the audience.

The remaining shows sold amazingly well, but we couldn't sustain a run because only having one performance a week can't generate enough money to pay all the other aspects of a show. After we closed, I didn't know what to do with the show. Go regional? Oy, I couldn't leave town. We decided to do it in New York, but where? Then James got his show Unbroken Circle produced at the Theatre at St. Luke's and we wondered if Disaster could run there, too. All the musicals that play at St. Luke's only have a few people in them and Disaster has a big, fat 14! Would it sound horrific? Well, we brought in a great sound designer who told us that a big musical could indeed work there (if we rented some equipment) and soon we raised the money to make the show happen!

Seth and Jack right before the first performance of Disaster.


 Continued...