Forbidden Broadway: Review Roundup

The cast of Forbidden Broadway: Alice & Kicking in "Once (Is Enough)"

The long-running Off-Broadway satirical revue Forbidden Broadway, offering its latest incarnation after a three-year hiatus, has opened to strongly positive reviews. The creative team includes Gerard Alessandrini (book, lyrics, direction), Phillip George (addl. dialogue, direction), Philip Heckman (costumes), Megan K. Halpern (sets), Mark T. Simpson (lights), Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik (wigs), and David Caldwell (music direction). Musical numbers include “Brigadoon Prologue,” “Alive and Kicking,” “Evita 2012,” “Nice Work,” “Granny/Annie,” “Once (Is Enough),” “Mary Poppins,” “Forbidden Follies,” “Agony/Into the Woods,” “Rock of Ages,” “Anything Goes,” “Send in the Hounds,” “Ghost,” “Newsies,” “The Circle of Mice,” “Spider-Man,” “Jersey Boys,” “Porgy and Mess,” “Smash,” “Mandy & Patti,” “Wicked,” “Judy As Judy,” “We Believe,” and “Ta-ta.” The cast includes Natalie Charlé Ellis, Scott Richard Foster, Jenny Lee Stern, and Marcus Stevens with David Caldwell on piano.

Ben Brantley (N.Y. Times): This little satire gives you everything you need to be witty, withering and informed about long, expensive musicals that would cost you thousands of dollars to see. … Just one session of the current Forbidden Broadway and you’ll be holding your own amid even the most passionate first-nighters. In an age that prizes bargains and shortcuts, Gerard Alessandrini’s rejuvenated Forbidden Broadway, which arrives packing polished brass knuckles, is a godsend. … The constant theatergoer will of course bring a connoisseur’s relish to all this. But honestly you don’t have to know the, uh, score to enjoy Forbidden Broadway. Good satire generates its own self-contained logic and infectious energy.

David Finkle (Theater Mania): Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss something until it returns, and that’s indisputably true of Forbidden Broadway, which its creator Gerard Alessandrini has just brought triumphantly back. … It has been directed for endless hoots by Alessandrini and Phillip George, and hilariously acted by cast members Natalie Charle Ellis, Jenny Lee Stern, Scott Richard Foster, and Marcus Stevens, with David Caldwell, back at the piano, demonstrating stamina equal to a 24-piece Broadway orchestra. … There’s no missing Alessandrini’s sharpest underlying satirical point – expressed by Ellis’ Mary Poppins in “Feed the ‘Burbs,” chastising audiences and producers alike for choosing “tepid vapid titles they know.” Luckily, there’s nothing tepid or vapid about this kick of a show!

Joe Dziemianowicz (N.Y. Daily News): Marksmanship matters in satire. The new edition of the popular lampoon Forbidden Broadway hits one bull’s-eye after another. … It’s punchy, packed with laughs and boasts a super quartet of singing comic chameleons. … The bulk of the show is fresh, with some skits familiar from previous versions, including whacks at the long-running Mary Poppins, Wicked and Jersey Boys. One of the most delicious debuts skewers the reigning Best Musical Tony winner Once. The bittersweet story of a boy, a girl and a vacuum gets taken to the cleaners in a hilarious zing. … For theater lovers, it’s like Halloween and Christmas both came early.

Erik Haagensen (Back Stage): The show is for the most part sharper and funnier than ever, with delightfully wicked new material outnumbering a few oldies but goodies. The revue lands a haymaker right out of the gate with “Evita 2012,” announcing that “dinner theater’s back.” … The combination of Alessandrini’s racing wit and nimble lyrics, the inventively on-the-cheap physical production, and the shockingly talented cast (joined occasionally by estimable musical director David Caldwell) makes Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! essential viewing for all theater lovers.

Steve Suskin (Variety): In a four-person cast of almost equals, Stevens and Stern stand out. He’s a versatile and always funny mimic slipping with ease into Patinkin, Fierstein and a very funny Sondheim. Stern is a wonderful clown; the more intense the funnier, and she doesn’t mind milking the laughter by crossing her eyes. … Alessandrini and long-time co-director Phillip George are once again abetted by pianist David Caldwell, who does a marvelous job of kidding the music. Numerous laughs are contributed by costume designer Philip Heckman and wig designer Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik. Not everything comes up roses. … But the highest hilarity comes in the Once sketch, which lovingly exploits the intense stars, the guitar songs, the Irish stepping, and even the red-bearded guy in the chorus.

Linda Winer (Newsday): Not all the sketches are prime Alessandrini, but enough are treasures that make it hard to resist ruining the jokes by repeating them for you. Suffice it to say that the new cast … is another gifted quartet of ridiculous chameleons. I’m blaming an occasional lack of focus on the sheer number of follies and felonies that have been piling up and begging for comment in the last three years. The show has more than 20 sketches, which means we get more quick hits than the kind of delirious in-depth scenes Alessandrini did for Les Miz. The most ambitious and sharply observed is the Once. … If we clap our hands and believe in Forbidden Broadway, maybe it won’t go away again.

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