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A CurtainUp Review
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking
By Elyse Sommer
As a Forbidden Broadway fan since its early days at the Triad and Ellen's Stardust Diner, I couldn't have wished for a better way to follow a visit to the dentist than the hour and forty minutes I spent with the show's newest incarnation at the 47th Street Theater. With three year's worth of shows to send up Forbidden Broadway does indeed live up to its Alive and Kicking sub title.
Alessandrini's decision to retire the show made sense since it was starting to grow a bit ragged from too many repeat pieces, but his coming out of retirement makes even more sense. The three year hiatus has not only given its creator plenty of fresh material but refreshed and sharpened Alessandrini's satirical wit. The set-up is essentially the same, but with a wealth of new material to make it better than ever.
The cast once again features two men and two women, and the current foursome couldn't be better. Their singing is terrific. They switch characters, costumes and wigs with lightning speed. And they manage to do it all on a postage sized stage shared with David Caldwell and his piano. Amazing, an egregiously o ver-used and unwarranted adjective, is for once an apt one-word sum-up for the foursome's acting, singing and dancing — as well as Alessandrini's script, Philip George's turbo-charged direction and Philip Heckman's fabulous costumes and Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik's wigs.
As the audience takes their seats, the piano is covered in plastic. But before you can say Brigadoon, the the wrapping comes off and the cast comes on stage with, what else, a Brigadoon-ish Prologue with the performers demonstrating their very alive and kicking skills. The first musical to be targeted with satirical arrows is Evita, the focus on box office magnet Ricky Martin and the British diva Elena Roger by Ellis and Foster. The original Eva and Che, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin get their own turn by Stern and Stevens in a second act number based on last season's limited concert that reunited the pair.
Scott is a barrel of laughs as a less than light-footed Matthew Broderick in Nice Work If You Can Get It. The first act comes to a hilarious full company finale with its take on Newsies in which Marcus's Harvey Fierstein is the first of several behind-the-scenes talents to be put in the spotlight. In the second act's Spiderman and Porgy and Bess segments Stern slyly caricatures Julie Taymor and Diane Paulus. The petite Stern is also terrific in a solo turn Tracie Bennet's Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow, while the tall Ellis is charmingly poised for flight as Mary Poppins.
If I had to pick one piece as my own favorite it would be the cast's version of the quirky surprise hit, Once.. It features Scott and Stern as Boy and Girl (and yes, she arrives on stage with a vacuum cleaner). Ellis and Foster represent the subsidiary characters. The way the anthem song, "Falling Slowly," morphs into "Frere Jacques" is absolutely brilliant.
With the TV show Smash a smash with audiences all over the country, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Forbidden Broadway has included it. Stern and Ellis play the competing divas, with an assist from Foster.
Naturally, not every parody is a home run. What's more having seen a show being parodied, will heighten the parody's impact. That's probably why Forbidden Broadway's fan base has been dominated by those who attend Broadway shows frequently. Not to worry, however, if you're not all that show-savvy. Most segments include an explanatory sign. Besides, these spoofers sing and dance superbly, sometimes better than the "real" stars. They're also such excellent physical comedians and the costumes are so witty that the show is a hoot even if you don't get all the connections.
This amusing look at all Broadway has to offer, may even prompt you to buy tickets for still-running shows you may have missed. That would no doubt make Mr. Alessandrini happy since he couldn't make all these Broadway's stars and the shows they're in look ridiculous, if he wasn't madly in love with Broadway.
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