BWW Reviews: MTW Racks Up Another Hit with Forbidden Broadway: Volume 2

April 17
4:35 PM 2012


created and writen by Gerard Alessandrini
Musical Theatre West (MTW) @ Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach
directed and staged by William Selby
musical director: Matthew Smedal
through April 29
Parody must have bite to grab hold of an audience. Since its inception, the Forbidden Broadway series has had the incisors of a shark and the claws of a lion, and theatre folk just clammer to have their gods and divas dished and devoured. The musical scenes are irreverently funny with a comic disclaimer at the beginning, but, hell, if the celebs can't take it, they don't belong in SHOW BIZ! Let's credit Gerard Alessandrini whose genius in writing scathing new lyrics to already well-known Broadway tunes has become legendary. And...Musical Theatre West's current production - the second volume  - is demonic and heavenly in the same breath. Like a salt or sugar habit, you just can't and won't stop indulging.

David Engel, Larry Raben, Susanne Blakeslee and Valerie Fagan essay about 60 different characters in the two hour performance, changing wigs and costumes in what seems like a flash...flawlessly. Blakeslee and Fagan, two veterans of Forbidden Broadway in New York and LA, are amazing performers. For Blakeslee, it's Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, or Julie Andrews and for Fagan, it's Annie, Ethel Merman - one of her finest - Sarah Brightman, Ephaba from Wicked and a multitude of others. You'll leave the theatre singing their praises.
Engel and Raben are forever charming and delightful. Talk about versatility! Raben's best moments come as Mandy Patinkin, Ricky Martin - living "Evita Loca" and as Stephen SondheimEngel's triumphs include the Phantom, Zsa Zsa in La Cage, but he indeed has his piece de resistance as debauched Robert Goulet mixing up the lyrics of "Some Enchanted Evening" with "If Ever I Would Leave You". Engel explores unchartered vocal territories, and it makes for an awesome set!
Matthew Smedal makes the piano talk and even does a delightful number himself in defiance of accompanying one more audition. Bravo to director William Selby's unstoppable musical staging - it's a delicious merry-go-round!
This is a choice theatrical treat and another triumph for Musical Theatre West.

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About the Author

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Don Grigware Don Grigware is an Ovation nominated actor and writer whose contributions to theatre through the years have included 6 years as theatre editor of NoHoLA, a contributor to LA Stage Magazine and currently on his own website:

Don hails from Holyoke, Massachusetts and holds two Masters Degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Education and Bilingual Studies. He is a teacher of foreign language and ESL.

Don is in his seventh year with BWW, currently serving as Senior Editor of the Los Angeles Page. He received a BWW Award for Excellence in 2014 as one of the top ten Regional Editors across the globe.

Don is also an author/playwright and recently published Books I, II & III of his children's fable Two Worlds Together: Donnelly's Greatest Christmas. You may purchase copies of the two volumes at Two one-acts in a collection called Holiday Madness were just published, also on Both the story and plays are available on kindle as well as in paperback.

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