Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back

Written and Directed by Gerard Alessandrini
At the Terrace Room Theatre
Park Plaza Hotel, Boston -- Tues-Sun

Reviewed by G.L. Horton

"Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back" is the latest edition of Gerard Alessandrini's spoof of current Broadway shows and stars. The author's a local, a graduate of Boston Conservatory, and Boston has always been a second home for this NYC review. Previous editions of "Forbidden Broadway" were ensconced at the Terrace Room of the Park Plaza for years, enjoying a well-deserved reputation as a fun night out.for Bostonians of all ages. Catherine Stornetta is at the piano this time, and although the four performers in the company may subject the composers to verbal assault, with Stornetta their music is in good hands.

The show opens with David Benoit doing his impression of Nathan Lane as Pseudolus in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and singing "Parody Tonight!" to the tune of "Comedy Tonight". Midway through, it features a bevy of feather-headed Carol Channing wannabee's, male as well as female, singing "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery" --- and that just about sums it up. "Forbidden Broadway" is flattery, all right, and it's satire, and it's pretty much irresistible. The parodies are delicious, the quick changes dizzying, and the performers dazzling. The only question is: how well do you have to know Broadway musicals to appreciate Alessandrini's versions? Is this a show aimed only at die-hard fans who make the pilgrimage to NYC regularly and buy cast albums, or will anyone who was in "Oklahoma" or "Grease" in high school find plenty to laugh at?

Unless you enjoy musicals as an art form, and admire a witty lyric just this side idolatry, some of show's effort may be wasted on you. Alessandrini's own lyrics sparkle, particularly when he is pointing up the inferiority of others', and his jabs at preposterous books and mediocre music are often based on a serious critical evaluation. But you don't have to "get" it all to have a good time at "Forbidden Broadway" , and it isn't really necessary to have seen all the shows "Forbidden Broadway" sends up. Exposure to the late night T V ads luring tourists to the Great White Way and tuning in to the Tony Awards snippets is probably background enough. Alessandrini 's treatment of "Anna Karenina", a musical that's not likely to have been seen by more than a handful of Bostonians, depends for its guffaws on a ten word synopsis of the book and the associations brought to mind by the words "Russia" and "train". And it's hilarious.

My favorite solo turns were Lori Blalock as Julie Andrews, Neal Mayer as Michael Crawford and as Mandy Patinkin squeezing out "Somewhat overindulgent" to the tune of "Over the Rainbow", and David Benoit as Robert Goulet, staggering drink in hand through a Vegas version of King Arthur in "Camelounge".

The "Les Miserables" parody manages to mock that show six ways from Sunday, the cast twirling madly on an imaginary turntable and grabbing in panic for invisible microphones, all the while singing the score skillfully enough to make it sound like real music. Another sequence that segued from "Cats" to "A Chorus Line" was marvelous -- but don't ask me to explain how, exactly. The catty comments about Andrew Lloyd Webber were all very well, but I think it was really the sight of a kick line of tabby chorines in little gold top hats and long furry tails that had me falling out of my chair. "Rent "-- renamed Rant--- came in for major abuse. The whole six-song segment was brilliant, but "Seasons of Hype" put it over the top.

Although a "Faye Dunaway does 'Master Class'" bit by Robin Thompson got the loudest in-the-know laughter of the evening, I'd have to cast a dissenting vote on this one. I realize that nothing could be more flattering to a Boston audience than to assume that we are all so theatrically sophisticated that we can mock Dunaway's interpretation of Maria Callas before New York does. But Dunaway doesn't open until November. I call it bad form to laugh at the idea of a performance, when the reality is right around the corner.