Forbidden Broadway is packed to the rat-ridden (the Whingers couldn’t help but notice the rat poison warning) rafters of the 47th Street Theatre. Because, of course, most of Broadway is forbidden at the moment thanks to Local One.
Anyway, Forbidden Broadway is an institution here. Since 1982 Gerard Alessandrini has been creating versions of the revue show spoofing whatever’s going on Broadway at the time. The current show is called Rude Awakening as a nod to the 8-Tony Award winning Spring Awakening (which isn’t running at the moment thanks to Local One).
It also sends up The Little Mermaid, Curtains, Les Miserables and A Chorus Line (none of which are running at the moment thanks to thanks to Local One).
Anyway, it’s very funny, but boy is it for the Broadway cognoscenti. Goodness knows what the casual tourists made of it. The Whingers particularly enjoyed a Grey Gardens spoof but if they hadn’t seen the original movie, they wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on. Indeed they struggled with some (LoveMusik for example) and references to someone called Raoul. Phil of course struggled with a lot less than Andrew, so nothing new here.
But the great thing about the format is that no sketch lasts longer than two or three minutes, so if you don’t know what’s going on, it doesn’t matter because there’s something else just around the corner.
Even without having seen Jersey Boys, the Whingers had no difficulty relishing the awfulness of it. Why that pile of crap is coming to London we have idea. And anything that takes a crack at Wicked wins our hearts.
A few things surprised us about Forbidden Broadway:
- For a four-person revue it has a hell of a lot of costumes and wigs. The Lion King outfits were particularly amusing
- The tunes are the original show tunes with new words written. We had assumed that the tunes would be parodies, but they’re not. How do they get permission? Do they get permission? From Sondheim, Disney et al?
Anyway, some of the highlights:
- The Curtains spoof which takes a massive swipe at the casting of non-musical theatre Frasier star David Hyde Pierce to attract a non-Broadway audience (“slow people”) with lines such as “To the uninformed straight / If you’re famous, you’re great”.
- A knock at B-celebrity casting in Chicago.
- Productions of musicals in which the instruments are played by the cast members.
- A great finale rewriting Hairspray‘s “You Can’t Stop the Beat” as “You Can’t Stop the Camp” lampooning the Xanadu, Hairspray, Legally Blonde and a dig at a very well known Hollywood and theatre star.
Andrew’s personal favourite was a complicated swipe at the modern musical performer’s dependence on microphones to make themselves heard. This involved the Phantom of the Opera and Ethel Merman duetting “You’re Just in Love” with Merman singing “You don’t need amplifying…”
Of course, it’s easy to snipe at things (Goodness! the Whingers should know), but Forbidden Broadway seems to occupy a more vital role as the keeper of Broadway’s pulse. Occasionally it gets depressed about the health of the theatre (particularly the Disneyfication) and sometimes it questions the symptoms of the illness: Is Broadway just not ready for Spring Awakening? Will it look back and see it as a ground-breaking musical? Or will it still be just filth in 10 years’ time?
All in all, the Whingers were in their element. They even forgave the theatre for
(a) going up 15 minutes late
(b) having the heating turned up to about 50 degrees centigrade and
(c) having “a brief five minute intermission”. A brief five minutes? Is it five minutes or not? Phil and Andrew were in pedants’ heaven.