After a three-year absence, the musical-theater send-up Forbidden Broadway returns to the 47th Street Theatre for a four-month engagement (through Jan. 6. 2013). Parodist-in-chief Gerard Alessandrini, who created the revue in 1982, has had plenty of fodder for his updated poison-pen valentine to the Great White Way.
Alessandrini remains a ruthless critic of the current Broadway scene in his lyrics, needling everything from Matthew Broderick’s vocal limitations (”Nice song if I could sing it”) to Once‘s sometimes forced winsomeness (”We’re so unpretentious that we’re pretentious”) to Argentine-born Evita star Elena Roger’s ”utter lack of star quality.” Even the Broadway-set NBC series Smash gets its musical comeuppance, with stand-ins for Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee belting out, ”Let me be subpar.”
The talented young cast of quick-change artists prove to be gifted mimics as well as singers. Jenny Lee Stern is a standout as Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone — and strikes a hilarious pose as Tracey Bennett doing Judy Garland (from the just-closed End of the Rainbow). Natalie Charlé Ellis, blessed with what is arguably the strongest voice of the ensemble, puts it to good use as Idina Menzel in Wicked and Audra McDonald in Porgy and Bess. Marcus Stevens gets big laughs as Broderick, Ricky Martin (”livin’ Evita loco,” naturally), and a suitably vain Mandy Patinkin. And Scott Richard Foster rounds out the troupe, with noteworthy turns as Once star Steve Kazee and Bono.
Yes, Alessandrini devotes an entire medley to the lampoon-ready sideshow of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. In a series of duets featuring Foster’s Bono and Ellis’ Julie Taymor, we hear riffs on the old ”Spider-Man” TV show theme, U2’s ”With or Without You,” and ”Sue Me” from Guys and Dolls.
While not every joke lands in Forbidden Broadway, the percentage is commendably high — and the numbers whiz by so quickly that you’re seldom more than a few verses away from another chuckle-inducing zinger. As the cast sings in a nod to the old-fashioned, family-friendly hit Newsies, ”Now is the time for cheese on stage.” When it’s served with this much bite (and flavor), we couldn’t agree more. A?
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)