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A CurtainUp Review
Forbidden Broadway:20th Anniversary Celebration

Forbidden Broadway Cast
The Forbidden Broadway Company
This is my fourth review of the enduring spoof-fest known as FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, but the first in a conventional theater. The previous incarnations of the basically same but always changing revue were in dinner theater settings. For the 1996 FORBIDDEN BROADWAY Strikes Back the venue was the Triad, a supper club on the Upper West Side. The 1998 and 2001 editions, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY Cleans Up Its Act! and FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: spoof odyssey, ran closer to the Broadway theater district, at Ellen's Stardust Diner.

The move to a legitimate Off-Broadway house, the Douglas Fairbanks Theater, was well timed to coincide with Gerard Alessandrini's 20th anniversary of doing commercially what comes naturally to most people working in the theater -- making fun of the shows currently lighting up the Great White Way.

With the more formal surroundings rather than cabaret style seating, one is more apt to hold Alessandrini's inspired tomfoolery to a somewhat higher standard though to do so would be a mistake. FORBIDDEN BROADWAY is what it is, a series of witty song parodies that include a fair share of misses along with the hits. The ensemble changes from year to year, but the performers are unfailingly gifted mimics and singers. The current quartet is no exception. As usual, they makes the most of the best numbers and keep the not so funny ones from falling too flat.

Donna English, who doesn't look anything like Julie Andrews is nevertheless a superb Julie who takes a nifty double swipe, first at the remake of the film she starred in, Thoroughly Modern Millie, then at Mamma, Mia! -- in the latter case, doing a smooth " if you can't lick them join them" turn around by becoming one of the ABBA singers. The only member of the ensemble who has not performed in previous editions, Daniel Reichard, proves himself well up to the challenge, doing both male and female characters. A duet with Reichart as Elton John and Kristine Zbornik as Ethel Merman is a deserved show stopper. One of the most up-to-date duets has Zbornik and Michael West doing a perky takeoff on Broadway's current senior citizen divas, Zbornik in tights and white satin shirt doing Elaine Stritch, and West, taking on Bea Arthur. West also gets to do Mel Brooks, singing "I Want to be a Composer." This is one of several numbers spoofing the hit of hits, The Producers. Not quite as on the money is "You Gotta Be Disgusting", a triple putdown of the vulgar aspects of the big three musicals, Urinetown, the Producers and The Full Monty.

In the tried but still funny department, there's the hilarious Les Misérables bit which has the actors unable to get off the set turntable. Among the celebrities who get roasted, we once again have Liza Minelli whose recent marriage makes her impersonation more current even if the humor seems to have worn somewhat thin. A sketch about impresario and savvy promoter Cameron Mackintosh still gets big laughs thanks to Alvin Colt's hilarious cape when it reveals a lining appliqued with all manner of promotional items. Colt's costumes, whether for the reprises or the new items, always add enormously to the fun.

While the shows usually pay some attention to straight plays, the emphasis is understandably on musicals which lend themselves best to song parodies. This year's crop of plays seem to beg for some comic skewring. The revival of Arthur Miller's very well known The Crucible strikes me as a natural. As long as the departed The Rocky Horror Show is still included, it might open the door for something about its replacement, Mary Zimmerman's update of Ovid's myths, Metamorphoses. Another natural for this brand of parody would be Edward Albee's much talked about The Goat. None of these get so much as a mention. The nonmusical that does get a song is the stage version of The Graduate with Kristine Zbornik as Kathleen Turner singing "I am the nude Mrs. Robinson. . . "

If there's a theme to this celebratory edition it's that new shows have taken a back seat to revivals. Since FORBIDDEN BROADWAY regularly revives its own best numbers -- as is or, like many Broadway shows, with a new fillip -- this 20th Anniversary celebration, without its usual postscript proclaiming Broadway's durability and more and better shows to come, personifies its own theme.

To add a postscript of my own. I noticed a quite a few youngsters between nine and twelve at the matinee I attended. Perhaps, now that the show is no longer in a cabaret setting, parents are under the impression that this is a way to give their children a taste of a number of Broadway shows in a single bite. But this is not an abridged tour of Broadway musical scenes, but a satirical commentary. Even adults will enjoy this show more if they are familiar with a fair number of the shows being spoofed, which accounts for the generous seasoning with impersonations of people whose celebrity is not limited to Broadway. In case you want to check out some of the shows FORBIDDEN BROADWAY spoofs, here's a list of the dishonorably mentioned, with links to our reviews:
The Producers
Thoroughly Modern Millie (LA production)
The Lion King
Mamma Mia!
The Graduate (London production)
The Phantom of the Opera

Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back
Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act! 
Forbidden Broadway 2001: spoof odyssey

FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: 20th Anniversary Celebration
Created and written by Gerard Alessandrini
Directed by Phillip George & Gerard Alessandrini
Choreographer: Phillip George
Cast: Donna English, Daniel Reichard, Michael West, Kristine Zbornik
Set Design: Bradley Kaye
Costume Design: Alvin Colt
Lighting Design: Marc Janowitz
Musical Direction/Pianist: Glenn Gordon
Production Consultant: Peter Blue
Music Coordinator: W. Brent Sawyer
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including intermission
Douglas Fairbanks, 432 W. 42nd St. (9th/10th Aves),, 239-6200.
Mondays through Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:15pm and Sundays at 7:30pm, with matinees on Saturdays at 2:30pm and Sundays at 3:30pm. -- $49.50 - $55.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on March 31st performance.
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