When it first opened in an Upper West Side cabaret in 1982, “Forbidden Broadway” instantly attracted legit insiders along with A-listers hoping to find themselves mercilessly but lovingly skewered, but the initial excitement wound down over the decades and the show shuttered in 2009. The three-year respite has worked wonders. “Forbidden Broadway: Alive & Kicking!” — the 19th edition — is indeed alive and kicking; jabbing and deflating, too, sprinkling a fusillade of arrow-sharp prods that can no doubt be felt in greenrooms throughout Times Square.
The past season has favored Alessandrini with numerous prime targets. Things get off to a rowdy start with a look at “Evita,” with gap-toothed Marcus Stevens using his hips to slay Ricky Martin. He is joined by pint-sized comedienne Jenny Lee Stern as Argentina-born Elena Rogers, who sings of being forced from Buenos Aires due to her “utter lack of star quality.”
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This is immediately followed by Stevens offering a devastating take on Matthew Broderick of “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” “Nice song if I could sing it,” he sings (kind of), “and when I sing it, you will cry.” Broderick’s dancing — and Kathleen Marshall’s choreography — come off even worse in a wickedly funny sequence that doesn’t spare Kelli O’Hara either.
In a four-person cast of almost equals, Stevens and Stern stand out. He’s a versatile and always funny mimic slipping with ease into Patinkin, Fierstein and a very funny Sondheim. Stern is a wonderful clown; the more intense the funnier, and she doesn’t mind milking the laughter by crossing her eyes.
They are joined by Scott Richard Foster as a pained Steve Kazee (droning “I don’t want to — but I have to — be the band as well”) and Natalie Charle Ellis singing a Gershwin aria (“op’ra time, and the music ain’t easy”) as she and Foster torture “Porgy and Mess.”
Alessandrini and long-time co-director Phillip George are once again abetted by pianist David Caldwell, who does a marvelous job of kidding the music. Numerous laughs are contributed by costume designer Philip Heckman and wig designer Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik.
Not everything comes up roses. There is a certain staleness in skits about Sutton Foster, Catherine Zeta-Jones and “Annie” as an aged tyke slumped over her walker; and while “Jersey Boys,” “The Lion King,” “Mary Poppins” and “Wicked” are still very much part of today’s Broadway world, their expiration date as sujects of satire might be past-due.
Mandy and Patti are similarly dated, but Alessandrini’s take on their recent Broadway concert, with the duo singing “now we’re sixty going on seventy,” is just as deft as his caricatures of today’s stars. But the highest hilarity comes in the “Once” sketch, which lovingly exploits the intense stars, the guitar songs, the Irish stepping, and even the red-bearded guy in the chorus.