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Theater Review : 'Forbidden Broadway' Encore Is a Critical Success

October 08, 1994|NANCY CHURNIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN DIEGO — Some critics make words sing. Gerard Alessandrini, who has an enviable ear for the foibles of Broadway, sings his zingers, or rather his four-person cast does in "Forbidden Broadway '94," now in a marvelously funny production at The Theatre in Old Town.

"Forbidden Broadway" began in New York in 1982 when Alessandrini wrote, directed and starred in a small-cast revue poking fun at shows and stars by setting new, wickedly on-target lyrics to familiar melodies.

As he continued to update his spoofs, the show took on a life of its own. "Forbidden Broadway '94," completing a national tour, features such fresh targets as "The Who's Tommy," "Sunset Boulevard" and "Beauty and the Beast," as well as such old standbys as Carol Channing in the inevitable "Hello, Dolly!" revival, singing "Dolly Is a Girl's Best Friend."

It's a fast and funny evening. And it can make you regard Broadway as an emperor without clothes. Maybe all you do need to pull off another "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" revival is a modestly talented hunk, as in "Any Hunk Will Do" (Alessandrini's spin on "Any Dream Will Do").

Cheers for sticking up for the Broadway stars who never get to reprise their roles in the movies, as in "Don't Cry for Me, Barbra Streisand." And thanks for pointing out in "I Know I've Seen This Show Before" (a jab at the "Guys and Dolls" revival, among others) that there should be more to Broadway's musical future than yesterday.

The show is smoothly and slickly produced, with a versatile, funny cast of gifted singers. Their range astonishes. David Benoit sends up hulking producer Cameron Mackintosh hawking "My Souvenir Things," a light-footed Michael Crawford in "Put on Your Phony Voice" (you will never hear the Phantom the same way afterward, I promise), an intense Mandy Patinkin in a wicked "Somewhat Overindulgent" and a smug Stephen Sondheim in "Into the Words."

Christine Pedi, with her big eyes and large, expressive mouth, also does everything well, from "Evita" to Chita Rivera to Ethel Merman. Ultimately, though, it's her Liza One-Note parody of Minnelli that is devastating.

Susanne Blakeslee does a perfect Channing ("Once Is swell, Carol/Twice Is hell, Carol"), Julie Andrews ("I Couldn't Hit the Note"), an aging Annie ('I'm Thirty Years Old, Tomorrow") and Streisand (in "Back to Broadway," but isn't it time to parody Streisand's recent tour?). Brian Noonan, a veteran of "Cats," not only parodies "Cats" but offers up a bare-midriffed Joseph, a less than sober Robert Goulet and a high-on-platform-heels Tommy Tune.

*

Musical director and on-stage pianist Brad Ellis keeps the show moving flawlessly. Bradley Kaye's set--a simple, glittery background with just the right touches of whimsy--works well. Teresa Vuoso's wigs meld magnificently with Alvin Colt and Erika Dyson's costumes to create just the right impersonation effects.

Alessandrini and company's sting is softened somewhat by their obvious love of musicals and their longing for how Broadway should and could be. Some may feel that they deflect the blows unnecessarily, but it keeps the evening light. And, if you respect Alessandrini for nothing else, you have to give him credit for having the guts to rhyme Louganis and heinous.

Ironically, like the producers he mocks, Alessandrini is making a fortune off Broadway's sacred cows. But, hey, what are sacred cows for if not for milking? Drink up and enjoy.

* "Forbidden Broadway," The Theatre in Old Town, 4040 Twiggs St., San Diego. Wednesday-Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 6 and 9 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Nov. 13. $20-$25. (619) 688-2494. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. David Benoit: Cameron Mackintosh, Stephen Sondheim, Michael Crawford, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Aladdin, Mandy Patinkin, others Susanne Blakeslee: Annie, Carol Channing, Rita Moreno,Julie Andrews, Mary Martin, Glenn Close, Barbra Streisand, others Brian Noonan: Joseph, Tommy Tune, Robert Goulet, others Christine Pedi Evita, Chita Rivera, Anna Karenina, Ethel Merman, Patti Lupone, Angela Lansbury, Liza Minnelli, others Created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini. Musical direction by Brad Ellis. Sets: Bradley Kaye. Wigs: Teresa Vuoso. Costumes: Alvin Colt and Erika Dyson. Stage manager: Jenny R. Friend.

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