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Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening

A Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus.

Stupid-mindless-fictional-nonsensical-verboseness; A spoof of all the Broadway shows, the best and the atrocious; Judging from the linse above, they�re really quite precocious; See "Forbidden Broadway" and laugh from your head-to-toeses!

OK, so maybe the last line doesn't scan quite as well as it should, but that never happens when Gerard Alessandrini is writing new songs for the long-running New York institution, "Forbidden Broadway." Every line this genius pens is perfect, and we thought we'd give it a try ourselves to see how easy it is to make fun -- an irresistible urge after seeing "Mary Poppins" raked over the chim-chiminey coals. It isn't easy.

His spoofs on the current Broadway scene are so clever and side-splittingly funny, there's no need for a spoonful of sugar to coax laughter from any audience member in this year�s latest offering of "FB," as formidable and theatrically-incorrect as its television counterpart, "Saturday Night Live."

Not a single show, no matter how original and sparkling, escapes the swish of the rapier in this riotous 25th Anniversary "Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening." So if you loved "Grease," and "Mamma Mia!," if you thought it was an inspired idea to bring back "Les Mis," and if you believe that Disney is just what the theater doctor ordered as Broadway is turned into Disneyworld, you'd better not see this latest incarnation -- you'll be rudely insulted.

From Sondheim to Elton John, Disney to Duncan (Sheik, that is), the energized cast hits its mark and has the audience in its grips through each fast-paced costume change, rewritten song, and star impersonation. As the opening song says, "It's demented, it's depressing, it's disgusting!"

Jared Bradshaw is remarkable hitting notes only dogs can hear as he channels Colm Wilkinson of "Les Mis" fame singing "God It's High." But it's his impersonations of newcomer Jonathan Goff in "Rude Awakening," and David Hyde Pierce in "Slow People," that keeps the material delicious and true.

Valerie Fagan is brilliant in her Eponine moment, "On My Phone," a number perfect for our techno-manic age. Ms. Fagan, wearing a succession of the theater world's most awful wigs, proves she can belt like Merman (who isn't yet dead), be as "wicked" as Idina Menzel, and as adorably falsetto as John Lloyd Young in "Jersey Goys."

Janet Dickinson does Christine Ebersole in "Grey Gardens" in full-hooded red regalia, and steals the show as the "Little Mermaid" in the Disney extravaganza du jour as she tries to maneuver herself across the stage sans legs.

James Donegan, singing "You Can�t Stop the Camp!," completes the cast as he takes on John Travolta�s confused role in the movie "Hairspray." Then quick as a Sondheim rhyme, he does an intense, vein-pulsating spoof of Raul Esparza in "Company."

Alessandrini, creator and sole writer of this perennial parody, proves once more that he has his fingers on the pulse of current trends. His songs continue to fan the flames of that constant struggle between serious shows that are cancelled way too early, and musical favorites that continue way too long.

One of his most inspired musical commentaries ridicules the awful new costume accoutrement, the face mike, that makes an actor look like he's got a wart on his cheek, thickly covered with a month's supply of Clearasil.

To fully appreciate "FB," it helps if you're a frequent theatergoer who keeps up with the latest happenings on Broadway, but one doesn�t have to be a dramaturg to get caught up in the vitality. The intimate supper-club ambiance brings a sense of inclusion to even the newest theatergoer, and the "in-your-face" skewering of what have become standards in American culture will not be lost on anyone reading this column -- the insiders laugh no harder than the novices. The final number, "What I Did For Laughs," says it all.

Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus

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