Review – Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab – 47th Street Theater

by

(Summary: I laughed a lot. Good if you have a few shots beforehand.)

Christmas Day in New York City: what would be the sure cure for not just the claustrophobia of too many relatives, but the saccharine-sweet taste of a Disneyfied Great White Way? Why, a musical revue that mocks all of it, aimed a bitter old gits who’ve seen so many shows they feel free to walk out at intermission if they feel like they’re not getting their $120 worth out of the evening. In short, this play was aimed right square at ME, and it was #2 on my list of things to see in New York, since August: Osage County had blissfully made it to the stage of London’s National Theatre and Xanadu had rather crushingly closed … and I’d manage to score tickets for and see South Pacific already. So Forbidden Broadway was number two on my list of shows to see – especially since this is supposed to be its very final incarnation. With tourists galore clogging the line at the TKTS booth, debating “Little Mermaid” or “Chicago,” we had no problem getting ourselves seats … and we were off!

Per my Playbill (God, it was nice to get free programs again!), the performers for the evening were Christina Bianco, Gina Kreiezmar, Michael West and (listed on the marquee) William Selby subbing for James Donegan (and David Caldwell on piano). The theater itself was tiny, maybe an 80 – 100 seater – decidedly intimate. The evening opened with a sort of “Alcoholics Anonymous” meeting: “Hi, my name is William … I haven’t been to a good show in 60 days. I am a Broadway addict.” “Hi, William.” Each of the group went around to introduce themselves (I liked the celebrity addict, who hadn’t stalked someone for all of six or so hours), then went into their first song, which introduced the theme of addiction to theater … in spite of the thin quality of offerings.

Then we went into an endless series of musical vignettes roasting most of the shows on at the moment, and even a few that aren’t (actually, I think only the Annie bit was for a show not happening – no, they had Xanadu, too – guess that bit was too good to cut!). They repeatedly mocked the Disneyfication of Broadway (I found the Little Mermaid number hysterical, especially after reading the pseudo-story in the Playbill about the actual star of that show – “As a young girl in Denver, Sierra dreamed of two things: being Ariel and going to Broadway.” Not bloody likely!), but countered this with a send-up of Spring Awakening, in which the actors whined about how they were never going to be able to take a show with so much sex on tour.

Straight shows were teased, too. I got a big kick out of the Daniel Radcliffe/Equus bit, which had the actor show up on stage in full Hogwarts gear, then basically strip down to a Fosse-like hat over his crotch. August: Osage County not only had a boxing match between the matriarch and her eldest daughter, but had several of the plot elements’ blatant debts to O’Neill mentioned – highlighting some parallels I’d apparently missed (since I’ve only seen one of his plays). There was also a sort of Sondheim tribute, in which Sondheim complained about how he keeps getting revived with only three piece bands to handle his full orchestration and “Bernadette Peters” begged him to write a new part for her, since he’d fried her voice.

Generallly, this show required little knowledge of the shows being mocked, as the witty lyrics were more than entertaining enough on their own. I would have got more out of it if I’d seen more of these shows, no doubt: I was about peeing myself during the South Pacific scene, especially when “Nellie Forbush” ran away from “DeBecque” because he had child … actors. And there was a certain amount of Broadway gossip that I’m just not privvy to (living as far away as I do, not that one couldn’t follow the online message boards and probably do a good job of keeping up) and some very, very in jokes that I think only the 14 year old red-headed boy in the audience was fully appreciating.

However, how can you not appreciate a song like (visualize Mary Poppins): “Feed the burbs … tuppence a bag … Tepid! Vapid! Musicals pay …” and the hysterical Frankenstein and Monster top hat and tails duet “Puttin’ up with Shit?” I was all ready to buy the CD to take home with me so I could keep laughing at home, but apparently this version of the show hasn’t been pressed yet. Oh well – seeing it live is what it’s all about, right? But the greatest moment of the night was when Gina Kreiezmar came on to do her Liza schtick. (I thought this was especially great because Liza’s new show had only been on for about two weeks, so I was impressed they’d been able to add it in so quickly.) She mugged, she hammed, she went on about how great it was that people were there to see her, she pretended like she cared about the audience at all, she forgot what she was doing, she rambled, she “subtlely” brought up her mom … she went crazy with the guy in the audience she went to address directly, who was Russian and had a name that sounded like Milk Cow. It was really over the top. Anyway, I thought this was a brilliant evening and really hope I have a chance to see Forbidden Broadway again – somehow!

(This review is for a performance that took place on December 25th, 2008. Yes, we went and saw a play on Christmas Day, then we went to the Village and sang showtunes at Marie’s Crisis. It was a grand day!)

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One Response to “Review – Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab – 47th Street Theater”

  1. Review – Forbidden Broadway – Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] way large producing organizations salivate over. I had a great time when I’d seen this show in New York on Christmas Day. It seemed to be written for me – a jaded old “been there, seen that, […]

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