Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking Review
Two competing Marilyn Monroes belt “Let Me Be Subpar”
A bloated Matthew Broderick woodenly croons “Nice Song If I Could Sing It.”
Yes, theatergoers, “Forbidden Broadway” is back, full of all new targets…..well, almost.
“Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking” is the 21st edition of the revue that Gerard Alessandrini created 30 years ago, using the actual songs from Broadway musicals, but supplying his own affectionately caustic, witty lyrics, and hiring talented performers who could sing, dance, mimic and make funny faces.
In 2009, he announced he wasn’t doing Forbidden Broadway anymore because Broadway was no longer producing shows worth spoofing; in their bland uniformity, they were almost self-parodies.
He has changed his mind, and most theatergoers can be happy he has done so. A strength of this edition, however, also winds up being its weakness (and vice-versa): As if Allessandrini is making up for lost time, Alive and Kicking jabs at some 20 shows jammed into a production that lasts only 90 minutes (plus intermission). This means everything is a quick hit. This is good for those spoofs that don’t quite work, or seem too little too late: About half the targeted shows have closed or their spoofs are holdovers from previous editions. Do we really still want to see Idina Menzel mocked from “Wicked,” Catherine Zeta-Jones from “A Little Night Music”? And will anyone think fresh yet another parody of the backstage soap opera that was Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark? Still, even with the expired shows, the revue is right-on in its attack on those not deserving a statute of limitations, such as “End of the Rainbow,” about the end of Judy Garland’s life.
The most inspired spoof for me was “Newsies” with lyrics like “We get so frenetic/you may need a medic” and choreography that is an amazingly faithful and at the same time hysterical imitation of the original. Indeed, in just a few representative moves, the versatile, talented and very limber four-member cast manages to nail with precision and hilarity the varying dance styles of everything from “Anything Goes” (“Everything Blows”) to “Once” (“so unpretentious that we’re pretentious”) to “Nice Work If You Can Get,” the parody that made me laugh the loudest. The choreography is not the only dependable hoot. Philip Heckman’s costumes and Bobbie Clifton Zlotnik’s wigs also manage consistently to wrangle laughs even when none would otherwise exist.
No figure no matter how hallowed on the Great White Way is safe from “Forbidden Broadway”: Among the current no-holds-barred targets are Stephen Sondheim, Manny Patinkin and Patti LuPone, Bernadette Peters, and Audra McDonald. But each of these are rendered in such exact imitation – with an amusingly demented twist just a few degrees away from reality — that, like the caricatures in Sardi’s, Forbidden Broadway is more homage than assault, and just as much a theatrical tradition.
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking
At the 47th Stret Theater
304 West 47th Street
Created and written by Gerard Alessandrini; additional dialogue by Phillip George; directed by Mr. George and Mr. Alessandrini; costumes by Philip Heckman; sets by Megan K. Halpern; lighting by Mark T. Simpson; wigs by Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik; music director, David Caldwell; production stage manager, David Apichell
Cast: Natalie Charlé Ellis, Scott Richard Foster, Jenny Lee Stern, Marcus Stevens and David Caldwell at the piano.
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes (including one ten-minute intermission)
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking is set to run through January 6, 2013.
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