By Marilyn Lester
For nearly 40 years, Gerard Alessandrini’s capacity to pump out high-quality musical satire with wit and jollity has been seemingly unstoppable. His various iterations of Forbidden Broadway over the years have sent up, spoofed, skewered and otherwise parodied the latest shows on Broadway with reverent irreverence. In this latest edition, Alessandrini is at it again with Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation, cut from the same glittery cloth that takes no show biz prisoners. The likes of Moulin Rouge! Tootsie, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown, Frozen, Oklahoma and more are fair game for the master’s humor, generating another hilarious round of unabashed merriment.
The crafty conceit of the show, with skits that bracket it, is of an eager tourist family overwhelmed by the Great White Way. They’re intercepted by André De Shields (Immanuel Houston, getting his satirical feet wet)), the guide to the underworld of Hadestown, who conducts them on a tour of this madcap alt-Broadway. Thus off and running, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation swings into high gear with crazy funny wigs (by Conor Donnelly), lightening-fast changes of fabulous costumes (by Dustin Cross) and sharp direction by Alessandrini, the creator-writer of this comic mayhem.
Most of it works very, very well. For sheer hilarity, “Woke-lahoma!” skewering the reinvention of established works, asks the question, “why is everyone so angry?” best exemplified in the parody song, “Oh, What a Miserable Mornin’.” In a satirizing “It’s Got to Be a Musical” about the plethora of old movies making it to Broadway, talented Chris Collins-Pisano shines as a wacky, gangly Beetlejuice. The stupendous Aline Mayagoitia as Frozen’s Elsa is deadpan hilarious singing “Overblown” to the tune of “Let It Go.” “Evan Has-Been,” featuring 13-year old Joshua Turchin, offers satisfyingly smug and wicked fun.
Refreshingly, a few skits outside the Broadway musical box were as welcome as they were witty and funny. The TV miniseries “Fosse/Verdon” with Collins-Pisano and the supremely talented Forbidden Broadway vet, Jenny Lee Stern, hit the parody bullseye and nicely showcased the work of show choreographer Gerry McIntyre. Stern was also superb as “the real Judy Garland,” complaining about her imitators, especially Renee Zellweger. Stern also scored perfectly as Mary Poppins with “The Place Where the Lost Shows Go,” an in memoriam spoof for Broadway flops. “Brush Up Your Yiddish” and “Translation,” the clever parody of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish, proved just bout any musical––even by Cole Porter–– can succeed in a Yiddish version.
Some bits were less successful but get A for effort. The game cast tried but couldn’t quite find the funny in the Irish angst of The Ferryman. “Harry Potter and His Cursed Child: Magic for Two” fell fairly flat, and young Turchin (the weak link in the cast) as Tootsie failed to reach beyond mild amusement. A tribute to the late Hal Prince as the Starkeeper from Carousel was a touching try but not an especially effective homage to this great icon and legend of Broadway theater. Still, the sum total of Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! is a great big package of entertainment certain to tickle the funny bone.
Accompanying all this merry madness was the joyfully maniacal music director, Fred Barton on piano. Barton’s full-body-slam style of playing is the perfect complement for the corresponding zaniness on stage.
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! plays a limited weekly schedule at The Triad Theater, 158 W. 72nd Street, NYC through November 30. For more information and tickets, visit www.forbiddenbroadway.com