If you've ever been in a college production you know that almost every cast party must include a little parody of the play on which you've all been working so hard. In 1982 Gerard Allesandrini, an unemployed actor, brought that special joy to an Off-Broadway house and spoofed dozens of the musicals that have become Broadway icons. The revue he wrote is called Forbidden Broadway, and his new lyrics for hit show tunes were dazzlingly funny. Well, the show keeps on going. It's been performed 9,000 times. It's been showered with awards, and over these thirty-five years Allesandrini has updated it twenty-one times.
Now the venerable Kay's Theatrical Korps has opened a strong production of it. This latest version is called Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits. Though the show was written for only four actors singing umpteen roles, this KTK production has a cast of, I think, twenty-three -- and there are some bright talents among them. Under the very able direction of Kyle Kranes-Rutz with musical direction by Pam Goerss, these folks present a most enjoyable evening. I laughed a lot. Musical theater aficionados will especially love it, as familiarity with the great shows being spoofed lets one catch every joke and feel like an insider. But it's really a show for everybody.
Everything is fair game. What are the hopes of an "Annie" who must sing "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I'll be thirty tomorrow!"
In Sondheim shows "the words are the stars" and his self-indulgently busy, complex and difficult lyrics drive singers (and audiences) crazy -- especially when they must be sung at "circus tempo". In "Oh, No, Carol" everyone begs Carol Channing not to embark on yet another production of Hello, Dolly! Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno have a fiery cat-fight about who was the better "Anita" in West Side Story. Jean Valjean in Les Miz complains that "This song is Too High!" "The Phantom" of the opera, whose breathy voice is too dependent on a head mike and electronic reverb, is loudly coached in belting by Ethel Merman ("You don't need amplifyin'!"). Rent, Wicked, Spamalot, Cabaret all come in for their delicious ridicule. Fiddler on the Roof sings about an actor's obsession with Ambition!, Rejection!, Projection!, Complexion!
Memorable among the too-many-to-mention talents are:
- Mary Helen Walton in Les Miz and Chorus Line. She's graceful and sexy and quite a pro.
- A tall, handsome leading-man type with a beautiful voice, Joe Simpson is outstanding as Jean Valjean and as Mandy Patinkin, an actor who is "Somewhat Over-indulgent."
- Kyle Kelesoma has vocal power and he is hilarious singing "I Enjoy Being a Cat." A rather portly gent in a cat suit, he astonishingly achieves a split.
- Sarah Polizzi and Maggie Nold are a fierce "Chita" and "Rita."
- Nicole Robbins is terrific as Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand.
- Caitlin Hill makes a convincing French chanteuse with a touch of that Piaf tremolo.
- Mina Charepoo does a beautiful "Liza One-Note."
A time or two, briefly, a singer got a little out of synch with the recorded piano accompaniment and occasionally there was an empty blackout for a few seconds between scenes. This is, after all, a community theater production, but in that category it is a very good one.
The chorus numbers are unusually fine, with beautiful power and synchrony across the stageful of singers.
Costumes are most impressive. Marie Moore, Kyle Kranes and Joan Caro have done beautiful work here. Lights by Chris O'Donovan and Megan McEntee; the set by Kyle Kranes; and chorography by Maggie Nold, Mary Helen Walton and Kyle Kranes are all top quality.
KTK's production of Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits continues at the Southampton Church through September 24.