Review: ‘Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation’ at Triad Theatre

By Accura News on 4 November 2019
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When “Forbidden Broadway” opened at what was then known as Palsson’s Supper Club in New York City in 1982, it targeted a pastiche of the most popular shows of the day including “Annie,” “Amadeus,” “Evita,” and “The Pirates of Penzance.” Playwright and parodist Gerard Alessandrini skewered Carol Channing with the song “Call on Carol,” a parody of “Call on Dolly,” and Ethel Merman with “It’s DeMerman,” a takeoff on “It’s De-Lovely.”

The original version of the show ran for 2,332 performances but tastes change and Alessandrini has rewritten the show over a dozen times.  In the latest incarnation, “Forbidden Broadway – The Next Generation,” Alessandrini not only blows up some Broadway musicals but sets ablaze some plays, a television show, a movie, and an off-Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish as well.  While he’s generally on target, there are a few misses and, in addition, some absolute gems.

The new production expertly targets “Moulin Rouge,” “Frozen,” “Hadestown,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Oklahoma,” and “Fosse/Verdon” with great vim and vigor and the cast of “Forbidden Broadway” is so good that its stars could conceivably lay claim to at least a few of the roles they skewer.

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The diminutive Jenny Lee Stern has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of  female roles she must tackle, including Judy Garland, Bette Midler, Mary Testa, Gwen Verdon, and Renee Zellwegger.  Her powerful voice and talent are truly something to behold.  Stern was the perfect Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins in “The Place Where the Lost Shows Go,” a wonderful in memoriam segment dedicated to some of Broadway’s biggest flops.

Alessandrini is at his best with sequences such as  “Woke-lahoma,” a take on Daniel Fish’s current rather dark revisionist revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” and a jab at Jez Butterworth’s brilliant drama “The Ferryman,” in which he parodies “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” from “Finian’s Rainbow” as “How Are Things in Irish Drama.”

His excellent jab at Disney’s “Frozen,” in which Aline Mayagottia as Queen Elsa sings “Overblown” to the tune of “Let It Go” almost made me forget suffering through the actual musical, and Chris Collins-Pissano as Danny Burstein as Harold Zidler in a rather understated lampooning of “Moulin Rouge” subverting the lyrics “Because We Can Can Can” to “Because I Can’t Can’t Can’t” was just as brilliant.

But not everything can be a polished diamond, other parodies were somewhat uninvolving, including “Beetlejuice,” “Tootsie,” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” although the cameo appearance of the Phantom of the Opera claiming ownership over the chandelier was priceless.  Less funny were “Ain’t Too Proud” and “Dear Evan Hansen,” although teenage Joshua Turchin’s portray of a very young Evan was spot on.

Finally, the meeting between Lin-Manual Miranda (Collins-Pissano) and Billy Porter (Immanuel Houston) was amusing if not also cringeworthy as the two looked at diversity casting in “Everything Now is Inclusive.”  “Everyone now has a chance to play Mama Rose,” sang Porter, to the tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Still, all’s well that ends well (the aphorism, not the Shakespeare play), with the closing sequence that features “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along.” “Merrily” is, of course, the story of Franklin Shepard, who abandoned his friends and his songwriting career on the Great White Way to become a producer of Hollywood movies.  Need one say more?

THE DETAILS

Forbidden Broadway
Triad Theatre
158 W 72 Street
New York, N.Y.  10023
www.forbiddenbroadway.com

(Photo: Accura Media Group)