BWW Reviews: California Musical Theater Turns Favorite Musicals Into FORBIDDEN BROADWAY

A small piece of the national tour of "West Side Story" remains in Sacramento these next two months, but it's not what you might think. And while many anticipate the arrival of the hit musical "Wicked," they can get their Wicked kicks at California Musical Theater's Cosmopolitan Cabaret, but with more humor than magic. Songs from these and many more shows are part of a Broadway revue in downtown Sacramento playing through March 18. But this isn't your typical revue. This revue has four fantastic actors constantly changing from excessive costume to excessive costume as they take on some of the most well know Broadway tunes with a revised, "forbidden" twist. The tunes are there, but the cleverly reinvented lyrics of "Forbidden Broadway" make fun of everything musical theater. 

The parody show has gone through several changes, additions and versions over the years. CMT's production includes hilarious spoofs on shows that include "Annie," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Gypsy," "Hairspray," "Jersey Boys" and "Man of La Mancha." Actors display their expansive vocal ranges and strong stamina with random movements about the stage and by acting various personas.

The cast gives unbelievably perfect impressions of famous persons of the Broadway world. Melissa WolfKlain's melodramatic facial expressions and vocal impersonations make her Carol Channing and Sarah Brightman numbers stand out, while Jessica Reiner-Harris adds her own flair to the voices of Idina Menzel and Barbara Streisand. Reiner-Harris also performs a wonderful number that those who have seen the original "Chicago" will enjoy. The song makes fun of the lack of sets in the show, claiming that when you "give them the old saucy Fosse" choreography and "naked men," you'll have no problem attracting audiences. 

The content of the show makes for an evening of unending laughter, but with comedy often comes a lack of propriety. Audiences won't mind. As the opening song states, the show is "just a trifle rude, and we might get sued." Another song warns audiences, "Don't expect the Muppets. These are horny puppets." The majority of the show, however, sticks with good, clean fun. 

Actors sing about the impossible high notes, physical pain and "ambition" of performing on Broadway, and they mock shows like "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid" and that "perfectly putrid in every way" "Mary Poppins" for turning Broadway into a part of Disney World. "Who needs Sondheim in a circle of mice? M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E." According to one song, "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Mis" have been around for far too long, and Jerry Lee dons a cat-like headpiece as he sings "remember when actors played humans" to the tune of "Memory" from the musical "Cats." A set of musical selections from Les Mis, including one "On My Phone," and the many more Broadway spoofs leave audiences with smiles as big as those of Carol Channing on their faces.

On top of a cast of amazing voices, as well as a wonderful piano accompaniment by Graham Sobelman, CMT's "Forbidden Broadway" features spectacular costumes and impressive quick changes. "Cameron Makcintosh" opens his cape to reveal the many souvenirs that he makes his real money off of. In addition to wearing colorful spoons and nails that look like chopsticks, Marc Ginsburg mimicks Rafiki from The Lion King and wears numerous Disney memorabilia spread over his costume, including a Mickey Mouse doll on his tin hat. And let's not forget a certain green witch and her flying monkey, not to mention the not-so-mysterious Phantom of the Opera, a mermaid's tail, and the many puppets of Broadway.

The cabaret revue contains several more precious moments of hilarity, but to give more details would spoil the fun. Each satire will catch audiences by surprise, making them immensely glad that they chose to enter the forbidden zone to watch and hear the many caricatures and powerhouse voices of "Forbidden Broadway." 


Forbidden Broadway

At the Cosmopolitan Cabaret

California Musical Theatre

Through March 18

Photo: (L to R) Marc Ginsburg, Jessica Reiner-Harris, Jerry Lee and Melissa WolfKlain in the Cosmopolitan Cabaret production of Forbidden Broadway running through March 18. Photo by Charr Crail.

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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