PARK CITY — Forbidden Broadway is a musical lampoon of the cleverest kind. The show consists of a blur of familiar Broadway songs with doctored lyrics that provide punch line after punch line at the expense of everyone on Broadway. This fast paced barrage of mockery is presented entirely by a pianist, two microphones, four actors, and an infinite supply of costumes and wigs.
In a quick and steady stream of musical numbers, actors Valerie Fagan, Craig Laurie, Kristen Mengelkoch, and Kevin B. Mcglynn traipsed on stage and delivered a perfect combination of comic timing, vocal talent, and choreography. Each performance was delivered flawlessly and each aspect of the show’s design was impressive. I have never witnessed a production with such speedy and numerous costume changes: the actors switched wigs (designed by Carol Sherry) and costumes (designed by Alvin Colt) between nearly every scene in a matter of seconds, and each new combination of wardrobe was an integral and hilarious part of each musical number.
The choreography (by Phillip George) in this show was a joy to behold. The actors had seemingly boundless energy as the flurried on and off the stage, each scene presenting a new style of dance and a new challenge of pantomime. I was most impressed by the choreography in a scene where the actors rotated around the stage at an even pace to mimic the famous turning stage used in Les Misérables.
My favorite thing about this show, aside from the general hilarity, was its relentless speed. I’ll admit to being fairly out of the loop when it comes to Broadway musicals. (Shocking as it may be to every other girl alive, I haven’t heard the soundtracks for Aida or Wicked and have only a vague idea of their plots.) So, I know there were some jokes that were lost on me. But because each musical number was only a few minutes long, so I only ever had to be in the dark for about three minutes at a time until the next song. Even when I didn’t get a joke, I could still enjoy the overwhelming musical talent of the cast and pianist (musical director Catherine Stornetta).
Gerard Alessandrini, the show’s writer, hit a sweet spot with the lyrics of Forbidden Broadway; their wit was cutting without being exclusive. This show would definitely be most appreciated by hard core Broadway enthusiasts. A lot of jokes alluded to specific plays, some recent and some older. Several individuals involved in Broadway production, including Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman, and Ethel Merman, were roasted in detail. Even though I didn’t know enough to understand a lot of jokes, the lyrics packed in a lot of laughs for we common folk, too. There was plenty of general wit as and humor on broad topics like the recent insurgence of Disney stage-adaptations and the abundance of overpriced, tasteless souvenirs.
The show ran about two hours, but I enjoyed myself so much that it felt like a few minutes. Forbidden Broadway started out as a small-scale cabaret act in 1982, but audiences received the show with such wild enthusiasm that it has been updated year after year to correspond with each new theatre season. After seeing John Freedson’s and Harriet Yellin’s production of Forbidden Broadway Thursday night, I’m not the least bit surprised Forbidden Broadway has become New York’s longest running musical comedy revue.