Laughter is back on the great white way, a little west of Broadway in a bandbox of a theatre called the 47th Street, just west of 8th Avenue. The master satirist Gerard Alessandrini has blessed us with his first Forbidden Broadway review since the 21st Anniversary Production in 2009. The reason it’s taken so long, in his own words: “Over the past three years I sat through show after show with no outlet at all. I couldn’t take it any more. Now I have three years worth of pent up parodies, and am blessed with a season that has practically written itself.”
So, onstage performers, beware! If you are Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Ricky Martin, Elena Roger, Audra MacDonald, Catherine Zeta Jones, Tracie Bennett, Sutton Foster and a host of others, put on your thickest skin because you are about to be roasted.
Younger stars are not spared either. Jeremy Jordan, Josh Gad, Andrew Rannells, Steffanie Lee (from Newsies, Book of Mormon and Mary Poppins) are also in deep, and very funny, trouble. But the audience is guaranteed a fine time, as Mr. Allesdandri has set his barbed lyrics to the tunes of the various musicals that have come our way this past season, or are left over from earlier ones.
They come at you, these brief musical sketches, in rapid fire, complete with wigs, costumes, even a touch of scenery here and there, to tickle your funny bone from the start. Even Harvey Fierstein, Diane Paulus, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, authors and director, are pilloried. I’m told that Broadway and off Broadway artists enjoy being picked for pickling much the way many enjoyed being battered by John Simon’s notorious reviews of actors in the past. “It’s an honor, being Simonized”, said one of them to me, in the lobby. I spoke to Christine Ebersole, the brilliant Broadway diva, whom I happened to sit behind, who told me she’d been skewered by Allesandrini, but “he wasn’t cruel at all.”
I can’t tell you more, for half the fun is not knowing what or who is coming next in this lineup of some 27 musical routines, which are subject to change without notice, as who knows who is about to arrive on the Main Stem just begging for an invitation to join the fray? This edition is scheduled to run until January 6th and would make the most marvelous Thanksgiving or Christmas present for anyone you know who needs to unbend with a good laugh.
The company of four who bring all of the above to vivid life are Natalie Charlé Ellis, Scott Richard Foster, Jenny Lee Stern, Marcus Stevens plus David Caldwell on, in and around the piano. They all seem to have been groomed for years in order to be able to capture the essence of everyone, contributing their own individual ways of changing voice, face, body and attitude at the drop of an F sharp. Lovely; a spring tonic served in early autumn.
Forbidden Broadway is onstage thru January 6, 2013 at the 47th Street Theatre, 304 West, 47th Street, NYC.
Details and tickets