BWW Review: Gerard Alessandrini's FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: THE NEXT GENERATION Aims Satirical Darts At Broadway's Freshest Targets
For those of us who began making regular pilgrimages to Palsson's Supper Club back in the early 80s to see Gerard Alessandrini's smart new revue pack with parody lyrics and impersonations that skewered the gods and goddesses of Times Square, Broadway just isn't Broadway without Forbidden Broadway around.
For over three and a half decades, the continually updated review has delighted theatre insiders and novices alike with the abundantly clever lyricist whipping up both delicious one-liners ("Hey, Bob Fosse, spend a little time on the book.") and some serious commentary on the state of New York theatre ("Here's to the ladies who screech.").
There have been over twenty editions of Forbidden Broadway in New York alone, not to mention productions across the country and internationally, but the last time Alessandrini's Tony-honored creation was seen in Gotham was over five years ago, though its spirit was alive and kicking with his full-length spoof of Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster, titled SPAMILTON.
But with HADESTOWN, TOOTSIE, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, AIN'T TOO PROUD, WAITRESS, MOULIN ROUGE, FROZEN and more providing fresh inspiration, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation is just as smart and fearless as its legendary predecessors. With Alessandrini directing, FB vet Gerry McIntyre supplying choreography, Dustin Cross designing outrageous costumes and the show's original pianist, Fred Barton, back at the keyboard, the wild antics provide, once again, the must-see entertainment for in-the-know playgoers.
Happily, as Broadway is upping its game in regards to diversity, so has Forbidden Broadway, and the first celeb to make an appearance is Immanuel Houston's stylishly slinky take on Andre De Shields, inviting a lost family of tourists to board a subway train with him for a tour of Broadway's seamier side. ("First we'll taste TOOTSIE, then lick FROZEN... Then BEETLEJUICE next, if it ain't closin'")
Later on Houston will be looking fab modeling a Billy Porter dress while belting out to a GYPSY standard, "Everything now is inclusive!", and, as a flashy Jeremy Pope, lamenting, "AIN'T TOO PROUD's a Jersey Clone... Des McAnuff, he would direct us from his phone."
With younger actors populating the stage more frequently, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation boasts the talent of young showstopper, Joshua Turchin, whose Evan Hanson, instead of waving through a window, sings of being "borderline psychotic." Paired with Chris Collins-Pisano's adult Harry Potter, he's young Albus singing of their steeply-priced magic to do, "Rowling wrote us and restored us. / Too bad no one can afford us."
Collins-Pisano is a demanding Bob Fosse, joined by Jenny Lee Stern's Gwen Verdon, in a terrific sequence where the star complains, "I get a pain when I dance with Bobby / I get a pain when he shouts 'Jump!'"
He's also Tevye, who, when matched with Houston's Lazar Wolf, advises actors seeking employment to "Brush up your Yiddish."
Part of Alessandrini's brilliance is how he hilariously gets away with saying what many entertainment journalists may be thinking, but few would dare publish, as exemplified by the graphic way Stern's spot-on Judy Garland describes Renee Zellwegger's performance in her bio-pic.
Aline Mayagoitia's impersonations of Karen Olivo and Amber Gray are a lot of fun, but she's a riot as a tightly-lipped Bernadette Peters, who, with Stern's Bette Midler and Houston's Jennifer Holliday, considers an image change due to the lack of star vehicle shows.
Perhaps the juiciest material of the evening is reserved for Daniel Fish's revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's initial classic, which is now regarded as "Woke-lahoma!" ("That gun on the wall shot an elephant's eye / And it looks like Ted Chapin is going to cry.")
"You oughtta have figgered out by now we are livin' in the era of turning cheery Broadway classic musicals inside out so we can see the ugly underbelly of American values," explains Stern, doing a great send-up of Mary Testa.
But, as usual, Alessandrini, keeps an optimistic view of Broadway's future. Thirty-five years ago he and his cohorts were the emerging future of Broadway, impishly ribbing the establishment. This time around, his material reflects the attitude of a senior member of the Broadway community recognizing that there's a younger generation changing American theatre to reflect their experiences. He observes them with admiration, while lovingly sneaking a satirical dart or two in their behinds.