Scott Richard Foster and Marcus Stevens in Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging
Probably one of the best things about spring in New York in my book is the knowledge that with warmer weather (generally), more daylight, and flowers blossoming, you can count on a new edition of Forbidden Broadway. Gerard Alessandrini, who created the show back in 1981, hasn't disappointed this year. Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging has just opened at the Davenport Theatre on 45th Street, and it's a marvelously fresh love letter (laced with wicked, pointed satire) to Broadway's current hits and misses.
The show's title, pretty obviously, is not only a reference to Alessandrini's gleeful mocking of what's happening on the Great White Way by refitting familiar tunes with parody lyrics, but also a reference to the fact that boxing has come to town in the form of the musical Rocky. Alessandrini's parody of this show, its montages, and the fact that star Andy Karl's diction might be a bit too good is one of the highlights, particularly when Alessandrini takes aim at the show's spectacular finale by using a child's toy of yore.
It's not the only time that the visuals of Broadway's current offerings are taken to task. For the show's first act finale, an extended lampoon of the new production of Les Miserables, Alessandrini takes aim at its use of projections to hysterical effect, before giving voice to the original production's signature scenic element: the turntable. (Long-time fans of Forbidden Broadway will remember this piece of scenery used to be one of Alessandrini's favorite satirical targets, so it's a bit funny to see him longing for its return.)
Of course, it's not just the physical elements of Broadway fare that are assailed but also trends in theater. Jukebox musicals, including Mamma Mia!, Jersey Boys, and Beautiful, are fired at in a merry medley, and when "Matthew Warchus," clad as Miss Trunchbull from Matilda arrives on stage to put the title heroine of that show along with Annie and Billy Elliot through some grueling paces, Alessandrini manages to inspire mirth not only about the shows, but also about recent headlines about the way child performers can be treated in their shows.
The stars of Broadway fare---past and present---are also skewered, with affection naturally, and in these sections, it's impossible to not be gobsmacked by the talents of the tireless four person ensemble, who already are having to keep up with umpteen costume and wig changes (designed by Dustin Cross and Philip Jeckman; and Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik, respectively).
Mia Gentile astonishes in her ability to channel Idina Menzel's vocal pyrotechnics; Marcus Stevens' mimicry Mandy Patinkin's rapid, idiosyncratic delivery of a song is impeccable; Carter Calvert makes for a thoroughly captivating and amusing Liza Minnelli; and in one of the holdover numbers. Scott Richard Foster proves that familiarity breeds excellence: his knack for zinging Steve Kazee's tortured vocal stylings in Once has grown more precise and funnier over the past year or so.
As the performers dash between parodies, which extend to The Bridges of Madison County, Cinderella, Kinky Boots, and even NBC's live "television event" offering of The Sound of Music, they are ably supported by David Caldwell's virtuoso piano accompaniment, and as the 2013-2014 season winds down with the spring awards season, it's grand to welcome this splendid edition of Forbidden Broadway that's fresh as a daisy . . . albeit one laced with venom.
---- Andy Propst
Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging plays at the Davenport Thatre (354 West 45th Street). For more information and tickets, visit: www.forbiddenbroadway.com.
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