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A CurtainUp London Review
Forbidden Broadway in London
I loved the witty lyrics put to well known tunes of our best loved musicals. There are two from Oliver!, one "Consisiderably over-priced"and the other, a much battered Nancy (Anna-Jane Casey) with a black eye and arm in sling who staggers on stage and sings "As Long As He Beats Me" about the evil Bill Sykes. It is a winning formula— the cheesy tunes, fantastically powerful singers and brand new satirical lyrics. It is also hard to write about without giving away all their best lines.
I was most delighted by the sketch on my all time favourite musical Boubil and Schonburg's Les Miserables now going into its 25th year. The Menier stage did not on this occasion have the revolving turntable so the cast simulated its turning effect by taking little steps and moving round an imaginary circle in a cheapskate version — just gorgeous! Sophie-Louise Dann imitates the statuesque height of Hannah Waddingham currently in A Little Night Music at The Garrick (a transfer from the Menier) by standing on a box which is covered with her extra long frock and singing, to the tune of "Send in the Clowns", a plea for more paying customers for London's recession hit theatreland, "Send in the Crowds". The poignant line refers to the practice of an audience leaving at the interval, "After Act One, no one is there!"
Steven Kynman as one of the many incarnations of Billy Elliot faces up to Christopher Raglands's predatory Elton John. The night we saw Forbidden Broadway Christopher was standing in for Alasdair Harvey who was with his wife on their first joint production of their baby!
Act Two opens promisingly with an allusion to those filmed background sets, especially the one that saw a real carousel in the musical of the same name replaced by a video projection with actors jumping up and down at odd intervals. The material in the Second Act failed to ignite and some of the lyrics were inaudible. I tried hard but couldn't get the new lines replacing Mary Poppins' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius". Spring Awakening got a short mention. I had so adored the boys sitting on their stools and taking the mikes out of their jackets in the original but in this sketch, the mikes were extricated from their flies. Yes, well! It just made me sad that Spring Awakening has already closed. But overall the Second Act is a disappointment compared to the wonderful First Act. I was left asking where was the Mamma Mia number? Sondheim gets a sketch of his own but it is rather turgid and I enjoyed less the allusions to Wicked, Hairspray, Priscilla and Legally Blonde, the last of which isn't due to open in London until December. The Minelli piece didn't speak to me.
the costumes are quick change and amusing and the sets minimal but fun! Despite my quibbles with the Second Act, I am sure the show will be improved as new writing finds a way in. Maybe rather than the Disney sketches, substitute one about McKellen and Stewart in Godot? The mock finale has us all joining in, singing along with the "cast" of another Menier successful transfer La Cage Aux Folles. The Menier is a wonderful place to dine before the show and this beautifully sung, witty show makes for a doubly pleasurable night out.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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