Imitation is the highest form of flattery” becomes a license to dish unmercifully in “Forbidden Broadway.” And while Jerry Herman may have quite adroitly written, “There is no tune like a show tune,” this nimble ensemble would add the word “lampooned” to that sentence as they repeatedly hit bull’s-eyes on the target range of satire. “Forbidden Broadway” is an uproarious exercise in hilarity for Broadway musical buffs everywhere. Therein lies the show’s greatest strength, and its weakness.
Writer/director Gerard Alessandrini’s sharply focused concept limits the universal appeal of his musical review. Audience members who possess limited knowledge of the New York musical scene since the ’70s will find themselves watching a two-hour inside joke. That said, all the ingredients of a definitively inspired, brilliantly conceived musical satire are in evidence: A talented and versatile cast, music provided by Broadway’s greatest composers, and razor-edged, no-holds-barred lyrics.
The show highlights 12 years of the revue’s best material with several new additions. “Forbidden Broadway” chestnuts include a send-up on Patti LuPone (Christine Pedi) as “Evita” (“Don’t cry for me, Barbra Streisand, the truth is you bought the film rights”), “Madonna does Mamet” (Susanne Blakeslee as the Material Girl sings “I Strain in Vain to Train Madonna’s Brain”), and “Cats” (Brad Oscar singing, “Mem’ries, of when actors played humans…”).
Some of the newer additions include a “Y’know I love ya,” polyestered Robert Goulet (Oscar) in “Camelounge,” Craig Wells as a technique-entrenched Michael Crawford (“Put On Your Phony Voice”), and “Sunset Boulevard’s” dueling Desmonds, Glenn and Patti (Blakeslee and Pedi, respectively) clawing for the Broadway run. One of the evening’s cleverest sketches involves a spoof on Stephen Sondheim’s complex lyrics to the tune of “Into the Woods” (“Into the Words”).
Alessandrini sticks to what has been written both musically and lyrically as much as possible, and it is from this adherence that his high comedy emerges.
As biting as his stage direction and manipulation of words may be, his genuine respect for the music shines through in the scoring, which is aptly rendered by singer/pianist/musical director Brad Ellis.
Bradley Kaye’s glimmering set harkens back to the show’s cabaret origins with Guy Conger’s colorfully gelled lights complementing. Costumes by Alvin Colt and Erika Dyson, and Teresa Vuoso’s marvelous wigs dress the picture nicely.