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Seth Rudetsky of ‘Disaster’ talks new Broadway musical

Seth Rudetsky co-wrote and stars in "Disaster!" at

Seth Rudetsky co-wrote and stars in "Disaster!" at the Nederlander. Credit: Getty Images / Matthew Eisman

Seth Rudetsky is a man in need of hyphens. Many, many hyphens. Call him a writer-actor-producer-pianist-comedian-radio-host-theater-trivia-buff-and-Broadway-ballyhooer-extraordinaire. And a superfast talker. Speed-of-light fast.

No one job category can contain him, as is evident in his latest endeavor. Rudetsky, the indefatigable lover of all things Broadway, is now on Broadway in “Disaster!” a wacky new jukebox musical he co-wrote with Jack Plotnick, running at the Nederlander Theatre through July 3. It spoofs ’70s disaster flicks, featuring pop hits of the period, and co-stars . . . yes, Rudetsky. He plays the disaster expert everyone ignores, alongside theater vets Roger Bart (as an evil casino owner), Adam Pascal (a lovesick waiter), Faith Prince (doing her riff on Shelley Winters) and up-and-comer Jennifer Simard (as the genre’s obligatory guitar-strumming nun).

Rudetsky, 48, grew up in North Woodmere, attended Hewlett High School, and champions Broadway in Playbill columns, comedy shows, on YouTube, and as a DJ on Sirius/XM satellite radio. His most recent books, “The Rise and Fall of a Theatre Geek” (for young readers) and “Seth’s Broadway Diary, Vol. 2,” came out last year. He and his husband have a daughter.

I looooove disaster movies. What are your favorites?

Top of any list, 100 percent — “The Poseidon Adventure.”

Absolutely.

The others focus on the disaster, with generic characters. But “Poseidon” has Gene Hackman’s struggle with religion, Ernest Borgnine’s love-hate relationship with Stella Stevens — there’s incredible depth to those characters. The disaster happens at the start, and the rest of it is intense — how are they gonna escape? It’s brilliant.

I recall as a kid going to see “Earthquake” in Syosset and my dad sees the line around the theater and goes, “Ohhh, we should’ve come earlier.” We didn’t get in. I was heartbroken. He made sure we got back the next night — earlier.

Of course! It was in Sensurround. Which . . . really . . . I think was just loud loudspeakers.

You wear many hats in “Disaster!” What’s toughest?

Having to do so much at once. I’m backstage taking notes on the lines, acting, music. Then I’m onstage performing, thinking, “Ohmygod, when you get offstage you better write down that line change.” People say, “Ohhh, once you’re in the theater, just be an actor.” Forget it. Not possible.

You started playing in pit orchestras. What’s something we don’t know about the pit?

A show can be a hit but not fun for musicians, and vice versa. “Seussical” wasn’t a hit, but had an amazing piano part, so I loved playing that show. “The Producers” was a huge hit, but I played the synthesizer, and the speaker was nowhere near me. I couldn’t hear myself. All I heard was the sound of keys going down. Like I was typing. There was nothing musical about it.

You’ve said in your early career you were never intimidated.

I wasn’t. Doing Broadway shows, I always loved discussing with performers why something worked or didn’t. I’d never give my opinion about something they couldn’t change, but I’d say, “You always seem to get bigger laughs when you do blah blah blah.” I’d talk to everybody.

Why is that?

I never learned manners. Sir, madam, all that stuff. I’ve always been egalitarian. It’s a fault, but also good. I‘ve never been like [he adopts a haughty tone], “Noooow is my meeting-you-for-the-first-time personality.” I don’t change my personality according to rank. I treat unfamous people the same as famous people. I’m just me.

You run at 110 miles per hour. Does the world seem in slow-motion to you?

Yes. And I definitely have friends who get frustrated because I’m always finishing their sentences. I am wrong like 40 percent of the time. [He points a finger.] But I’m right 60 percent! [He smiles.] I can’t write freehand anymore. I have to type, because so many ideas spill out. I’m sure it’s annoying. I hear myself on talk shows and go, “What did I just say?”

Is that how your family talked growing up?

Whenever people came over, they’d say, “Noooow we get it.” Dinner was all about telling the funniest story in the shortest amount of time. Somebody would be talking and I’d go “Boring!” or “Not interested!”

To your family?

Yeah.

At the dinner table?

Always. Then I’d turn to somebody else. So you’d have to be hilarious and succinct. I was the youngest, but all us siblings were trying to tell stories. “OHHH, she said.” That was my mother’s catchphrase. “OHHH, she said. And she looked at me and . . .” My father wasn’t a storyteller but he’s really funny. Both love the arts. Both great conversationalists. Definitely, it all came from them.

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