Writer: Gerard Alessandrini
Director: Gerard Alessandrini
Reviewer: Alithea Howes
Forbidden Broadway is as delightfully brutal as it’s always been. For the uninitiated: Forbidden Broadway is a theatrical roast, which rewrites hit songs to lovingly lampoon the current shows on Broadway. It was created in 1982 and has been updated countless times since then.
One might expect that premise to wear thin after 36 years, but writer/director Gerard Alessandrini’s wit and humor remains relevant and utterly delightful. Even when he pans something beloved, one can’t help but laugh. This was particularly clear during the Mary Poppins-inspired tribute to famously failed shows, “The Place Where the Lost Shows Go.” A combination of guilty laughter and pained groans swept through the audience as each show was named.
Filled with winking references to both the history and business of theatre, the more one knows about theater, the more enjoyable the show is. But one need not be a super nerd to enjoy the show. Even when the reference is unfamiliar, the show’s wit, absurdity, and top notch performances keep it entertaining. It is simply not possible to keep a straight face during the Moulin Rouge parody “Diamonds Up My Wazoo “(to the tune of “Diamonds Are Forever.”) This show may not be on Broadway, but the performances are Broadway-worthy.
Though the show often derives humor from their low budget recreations of broadway spectacle (Moulin Rouge’s “visual overload” is depicted by a flailing flashlight beam and singing Sia to a four inch chandelier) the show’s professionalism shines through. With a cast of six performing characters from at least sixteen different shows, the seamless costume and character changes are nothing short of astounding. Designer Dustin Cross knew just the right details to make each costume immediately recognizable.
Though the entire cast is stellar, special mention must be made of Jenny Lee Stern’s onstage transformation from Judy Garland to Renee Zellweger and back. And Aline Mayagoitia’s Bernadette Peters impression is to die for. Longtime fans will be happy to see more dancing in this new iteration (choreographed by Gerry McIntyre.) And Glenn Bassett’s Wheel of Adaptations and tiny chandelier were touches of genius.
The parody of Circle in the Square’s grimdark production of Oklahoma felt a little out of place. For a show that consistently pokes fun at the staleness of Broadway, it was confusing to have a sequence bemoaning the re-imagining of an old classic.
This off note was quickly forgotten in the show’s finale, a song praising the new original Broadway musicals and welcoming in a new era of theatre. Set to “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along and segueing into Carousel’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” the song deftly sidestepped any looming sentimentality by shifting into self parody, warning performers that satirizing Broadway shows could mean that they’ll “Neeeeeevvvveeerrrr work agaiiiiiinnnnnn.”
Runs until 30th November 2019 | Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg