The Whingers have something of a history with Forbidden Broadway.
They first saw it on the Broadway itself – or rather off the Broadway – in 2007 (it was already 25 years old then) as they were running out of things too see on yer actual Broadway due to a strike by Local One.
And we saw a revised version at the Menier 5 years ago when those clever people behind the show had us eating out of their hands by name-checking the Whingers in one of the songs. How we swooned.
Of course we would not get a mention now. That moment has passed, the joke has been done and our stock is depleted. But this show has sufficient allure that even Andrew brushed off his mothballs and dragged himself along for this one.
The biggest problem for Gerard Alessandrini’s send up of Broadway and West End shows – which is constantly updated according to which shows are currently running – was could it possibly live up to its previous incarnations?
Yes it could. And some. It’s as sharp, barbed and hilarious as ever. Possibly more so. And unless our memories play tricks on us it is probably a tad crueler too. Shows are accurately and mercilessly picked apart one after another. If it’s fun watching the shows we’ve liked sent up, then seeing those we’ve disliked speared is an even greater pleasure.
The lacklustre The Pajama Game (yes we saw it, but Phil felt such indifference towards it he couldn’t be bothered to write anything) comes in for such an accurate and savage pasting in the song “The Revival Game” we howled. We’ve found it very easy to miss Miss Saigon, though Phil saw the original version at the Lane when it first opened and wondered what the fuss was all about then. Forbidden Broadway’s vicious dissection suggests he’s not alone in his opinion.
It helps to have seen the shows, though Andrew, who has stuck with his intention of being the only person on the planet never to see Les Miserables still laughs his head off at the send up here. And anyone with a working knowledge of Hugh Jackman, Cameron Mackintosh, Mandy Patinkin, Matthew Warchus, Angela Lansbury, Liza, Chita Rivera, Julie Andrews, Elaine Paige etc won’t find themselves too adrift.
Act 1 is a hoot but Act 2 contained some of Phil’s favourite moments taking on Jersey Boys (so, we weren’t alone in thinking the book for that show was massively over-praised then?), a brilliant Once spoof with plenty of vacuum cleaning (Guy fixes Girl’s vacuum cleaner in the show) and a piss take on the performers-playing-their-own-instruments style “Take my crampy hand and get a band” and an hugely satisfying annihilation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
It’s a shame Dirty Rotten Scoundrels isn’t represented or any of the recent string of über-flops whose carcasses would surely have provided plenty to pick over.
Director Phillip George marshals the absurdity with seamless precision and the cast of Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis perform the camp shenanigans tirelessly, managing to be consistently funny whilst singing splendidly and at glorious full-throttle. West End divas who can’t manage 8 shows a week should see this and weep.
Funniest show in town. No contest.