FORBIDDEN BROADWAY’S GREATEST HITS. Written by Gerard Alessandrini; directed by Kelly Van Oosbree; musical direction by Eric Weinstein. Produced by Evergreen Players (Center Stage, 27608 Fireweed Drive, Evergreen) through Aug. 2. Tickets available at 303-674-4934 or www.evergreenplayers.org.
The FORBIDDEN BROADWAY franchise began in 1982, sprung from the fertile imagination of frustrated actor Gerard Allessandrini—a sort of “If I can’t join them, I’ll parody them” move on his part. Not too surprisingly, the backstage parodies that moved onstage with a piano, four singers, costumes from a Halloween shop, and a Mylar curtain proved that Broadway likes to make fun of itself. As the years passed and new shows opened on Broadway, new songs were added to the show. All in all, there have now been 22 versions including the last to play off-Broadway – FORBIDDEN BROADWAY GOES TO REHAB (No – No – No!). Current producers have a long list of song parodies o choose from.
This version produced by Evergreen Players includes songs and sentiments from the older shows: ANNIE, GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, HELLO DOLLY, WEST SIDE STORY, LES MIZ and so on. You don’t have to know the shows to enjoy this production, but it helps. My 14-year-old companion didn’t know who Mandy Patinkin was, but she laughed anyway at Rob Riney’s overblown dramatic version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” His antics as a cat from . . . you know . . . singing “I Enjoy Being a Cat” to the melody of “I Enjoy Being a Girl” from WEST SIDE STORY also delighted.
One of my favorite memories from the first time I saw a version of this show years ago was the songs that spoofed LES MIZ, especially “This Song’s Too High” sung to the melody of “Bring Him Home.” It’s usually sung with a slight anger and frustration. Shane Delavan’s tired, defeated Jean Valjean was the best, most realistic version I’ve ever heard. He was almost in tears at having to struggle through the high notes one more time. Shane’s vain and vocally impaired Phantom was also a hoot. Paired with a bellowing Ethel Merman, he is nothing without his amplifying and modulating head mic.
Lindsay Falduto brings to life a vintage Annie who mourns her lack of work since that childhood hit in “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I’ll be 30 Tomorrow.” She joins the other female cast member, Shahara Ray, in the vintage FORBIDDEN BROADWAY hit “My Name Is Chita; I Am Not Rita” sung to the WEST SIDE STORY’s “America.” It mocks the competition between the two Latina actresses for the same roles. In a funny spoof of a spoof, Rob and Lindsay sing “A Song Like This” from SPAMALOT which, in itself, ridicules the dramatic but predictable way love songs are sung in EVERY Broadway show. They hardly had to change the words on that one.
Even when Shahara is singing silliness, her leather-lunged voice is strong and true. She does a great Barbra Streisand, an even funnier Liza Minelli (with just a tiny touch of coke on her nose), a strong Mama Rose that morphs into Ethel Merman heard clearly in the back row, a sickly-sweet Carol Channing doing yet another version of HELLO DOLLY, and a French chanteuse who really knows how to make an entrance. She epitomizes the sentiment expressed in the final song, “What We Did for Laughs,” sung to “What We Did for Love” from A CHORUS LINE.
Musical numbers flow quickly into the next nonstop, and each brings the special joy of recognition and a sense of delighted anticipation. “What are they going to do now?” you wonder. You are not disappointed. The reworking of the lyrics is clear and mocks everything about musicals democratically. The extent of hype in selling a show, the boredom of doing a show for years, the ruthless ambition of actors, the camp written into shows, the unmitigated “dumbing down” of shows (`a la MAMMA MIA), the difficulty of singing (and, for the audience, hearing) the lyrics of Sondheim — all get merciless treatment.
Congratulations to Evergreen for grabbing the first rights and producing such a professional version of this revue. Congratulations to directors Van Oosbree and Weinstein for their fine work. A Big Thank You to the four talented singer/dancers who trekked up the mountain from Denver to perform this show. Here’s hoping the audiences follow your lead, take a leisurely drive into Evergreen some warm summer’s evening, visit one of Evergreen’s fine restaurants, and use their GPS to find this little theater in the trees. It will be worth the effort.
WOW factor: 8.5