Gerard Alessandrini has given us numerous editions of Forbidden Broadway over the last 37 years. Some of his parodies of Broadway shows have been better than others, and some of his casts have been stronger than others. Luckily for us, his latest parody of current and recent Broadway productions is hilarious. It deserves to run longer than some of the shows it spoofs.
All of the previous Forbidden Broadways have had four-person casts. This one has five, one of whom is a kid (13-year-old Joshua Turchin). He’s put to excellent use. Early on he’s part of a family visiting New York and trying to decide what show to see. “God I wanna see it 2019” is a cute Chorus Line riff in which the family ponders the theatergoing options. As usual, Alessandrini serves up witty lyrics that perfectly fit the melodies. “The shows I want to see/Are too adult for me/ So many places/That I’m not allowed to go,” Turchin croons as the young tourist.
A guide shows up to take the family to – where else? – Forbidden Hadestown. Immanuel Houston smoothly steps into Andre De Shields’ shoes. Equally spot-on is Aline Mayagoitia’s impersonation of Amber Gray. The whole cast sings the chorus: “Broadway Upside Down/Pretentious Hadestown!/Forbidden Hadestown!” (No matter how much you liked Hadestown, you have to admit that it is pretty pretentious.)
Alessandrini’s perceptive, affectionate spoofs are best appreciated if you’ve seen the shows being parodied. But they’re funny even if you haven’t. Moulin Rouge, here known as Moulin Rude, produced the lyric that made me laugh out loud the loudest even though I haven’t seen the musical yet. “Diamonds up my wazzoo/Forever and ever,” sings Mayagoitia, sporting a sparkling dress as Karen Olivo. The skit also notes that Danny Burstein (played by Chris Collins-Pisano) is the only Moulin cast member who doesn’t dance. When a can-can dancer asks him why he isn’t dancing, Collins-Pisano wails, “Because I can’t can’t can’t!” Not surprisingly, the Moulin Rouge parody mashes up many pop tunes in about five minutes.
Running 90 minutes, this breezy and buoyant incarnation of Forbidden Broadway manages to cover a slew of Broadway musicals as well as plays (The Ferryman and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), the recent TV series Fosse/Verdon and the current film Judy. Alessandrini’s jabs at Renée Zellweger, who stars in the latter, are among his most pointed. Most of his satire is gentle and good-humored. As director, Alessandrini keeps the skits coming at a brisk pace.
He’s lucky to have a gifted cast for his latest Broadway lampoon. Jenny Lee Stern is terrific as both Judy Garland and Zellweger. She’s also memorable as Gwen Verdon. In "Who’s Got the Pain” she and Collins-Pisano do some of the Fosse moves that have given dancers plenty of pain. Houston hams it up as Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls and as Jeremy Pope et al in Ain’t Too Proud. Turchin mopes nicely as Evan Has-Been and pulls off a Tootsie takeoff as red-dress-wearing Santino Fontana. Mayagoitia is a hoot as Bernadette Peters, and Collins-Pisano shines in the clever Woke-lahoma! (“Oh! What a mis’rable mornin’.”)
Even the choreography, by Gerry McIntyre, is witty. The whole cast bops to The Prom’s “It’s Time to Dance," and Alessandrini mocks the current trend of musicals encouraging audiences to get up and dance during the finales, ensuring standing ovations.
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation doesn’t need any such tricks to keep the audience in stitches. It’s the funniest, smartest satire in town.