Long a staple of Off-Broadway musical entertainment, Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway has been keeping people in stitches since 1979. Playfully ruthless in its send-ups of musical theater, the show skewers with abandon. The current iteration, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation brilliantly keeps the laughter flowing. It is a delight from start to finish.
Alessandrini has an incredible gift for finding the funny. Both in his choice of material and the way he crafts his musical mash-ups, incorporating endlessly clever theatrical references, he casts his net wide. There is something for everyone. He manages to be deliciously wicked without drawing blood, but then again, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
Just as Alessandrini throws caution to the winds, so his cast of five versatile, talented performers goes all in. They make quick work of myriad roles, dashing on and off stage entirely transformed. Choreographer Gerry McIntyre keeps the traffic down to a dull roar. It may be fast and furious, but he and Alessandrini have it under control. Conor Donnelly has designed some impressive wigs, while Costume Designer Dusitn Cross hits the mark with everything from sequins to spurs.
The opening number sets the tone swiftly, as the cast arrive onstage as tourists intent on an evening of theater. They consider the options, to the tune of “God I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line (“Tootsie is so Old School; Frozen is so un-cool; Fiddler is like a Schul.”) And we’re off!
The singers are uniformly excellent. Aline Myagoitia, a statuesque ingenue with a terrific belt voice is a perfect Elsa (from Frozen) and also does a dead-on impression of Bernadette Peters, in a cascade of golden ringlets. Jenny Lee Stern is clearly a dancer as well as a singer. She and Chris Collins-Pisano make a terrific pair in a send up of Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse. She also knocks it out of the park as Judy Garland circa 1962.
The youngest member of the cast, Joshua Turchin has polish beyond his years, without any of that preciousness that can so easily afflict a young performer. He is hysterical as arm-cast sporting, angsty teen Evan Hansen. Immanuel Houston gets to spread his wings in all directions as a jazzy André De Shields, a dazzling and bedazzled Billy Porter and even Jennifer Holiday. In his Billy Porter incarnation, Houston duets with Chris Collins-Pisano as Lin-Manuel Miranda. Turchin is so believable you almost think you are watching Miranda himself.
There’s so much to enjoy - the flops, the hits, the shows you’ve never heard of - and more, including my personal favorite, a send-up of Irish drama. Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation was a hit this past year at the Triad (aka world’s smallest stage), but closed on January 5. New Yorkers are so fortunate that York Theatre Company has taken up the show, presenting it in a limited run through February 9. It’s a must see for anyone with a taste for the irreverent.
(Photo by Carol Rosegg)
"Gerard Alessandrini’s franchise was looking as long in the tooth as the shows it aimed to skewer. A new edition brings it back to hilarious life."
Ben Brantley for New York Times
"While [Jenny Lee] Stern and the sparkling Aline Mayagoitia are crack impressionists who can sell the slighter material, the male performers (Immanuel Houston, Chris Collins-Pisano and child actor Joshua Turchin) are stronger as singers than as comic impersonators. Despite its unevenness, though, Forbidden Broadway remains required skewering for theater fans."
Raven Snook for Time Out New York
"For theater fans, seeing Forbidden Broadway back on the boards feels like all's right with the world again. It's been too long but the years have only enhanced Gerard Alessandrini's signature sendup of Broadway. Armed with new material, a fabulous cast and a fresh coat of greasepaint, his Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation mercilessly and hysterically takes on the sacred cows on the Great and sometimes not so great White Way."
Roma Torre for NY1
"“Once again creator-writer-director Gerard Alessandrini knows the multiple ways in which musical parody can delight an audience."
Robert Hofler for The Wrap