BWW Review: Gerard Alessandrini's FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: THE NEXT GENERATION Moves To The York
Fosse/Verdon, Hadestown and Woke-lahoma! are among the satirical targets.
It's been only three months since the brilliant lyricist/director Gerard Alessandrini opened the latest edition of his Tony-honored satirical creation Forbidden Broadway at The Triad, but after a brief hiatus, the company has moved their antics east for a stint at The York.
Though the larger stage allows Alessandrini and choreographer Gerry McIntyre to open things up a bit, and for music director Fred Barton to be fully visible to the audience as he plays the on-stage grand, this mounting of Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation is essentially the same show that opened in October.
So don't expect any routines about the CATS movie or of Ivo van Hove's now-previewing reimagined WEST SIDE STORY, but even though a good number of the productions being spoofed have already closed, there no denying the abundance of cleverness to enjoy as the company carries on the beloved revue's three and a half decade long tradition of spoofing the gods and goddesses of Times Square with parody lyrics and impersonations. Add to the mix Dustin Cross' outrageous costumes and you've got a swell time.
As Broadway has been 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 red Billy Porter dress while belting out to a GYPSY standard, "Everything now is inclusive!", and play 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 some 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 Mayagoita's impersonations Amber Gray and Karen Olivo ("Jukebox is a star's best friend.") 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 Holiday, considers an image change due to the lack of star vehicle shows.
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.