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A CurtainUp London London Review
Forbidden Broadway in London

Walk Like A Man
Sing like a girl
Falsetto Pitch
Is such a bitch
Helium helps me
Sing like a girl.
— Jersey Boys' spoof song
Forbidden Broadway in London
Steven Kynman as Jason Donovan in Priscilla Queen of the Desert
(Photo: Alastair Muir)
Forbidden Broadway has taken a long time to come to London but it is surely worth the wait (although the Jermyn Street Theatre hosted a version some years' back). At the interval I was ready to text everyone I know to say that they must go and see this very funny show with favourite tunes and excellent singers. Elyse Sommer has said that you will get more out of the show the more musicals you have seen, and certainly there is barely a reference to anything on in London that isn't a musical. The bare reference is to Equus which closed two years ago and has Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe singing "Let Me Enter Naked" to the tune of "Let Me Entertain You" alluding to his much publicised nude scene in the play.

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.

Forbidden Broadway in London
Conceived and written by Gerard Alessandrini
Direction and choreographed by Philip George

Starring: Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Steven Kynman, Alasdair Harvey/Christopher Ragland
Musical direction by Joel Fram
Set Design: Morgan Large
Costume Design: Alvin Colt
Lighting: David Howe
Sound: Gareth Owen
Running time: One hour 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7907 7060
Booking to 13th September 2009
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 3rd July 2009 performance at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark Street, London SE1(Tube: London Bridge)

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