Forbidden Broadway, the musical aiming to spoof all others, has been in existence since 1982 and its latest incarnation (transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory, direction by Phillip George) is again wholly up to date, even including shows that haven’t opened yet (including Evita). On press night the who’s who in Theatreland could be heard roaring with laughter at the many in-jokes, including an amusing portrait of Cameron Mackintosh and his genius for making money. Robert Lindsay also received some good-humoured satirising. The question, of course: is it good enough for a less-informed audience?
I’d say it is, even though not every reference will hit home. Besides jabs at well-known current musicals, such as Matilda and The Book of Mormon, Broadway performers Rita Moreno and Bernadette Peters are not nearly as famous here as they are on the other side of the Atlantic. But then again, the concept is called Forbidden Broadway, not Forbidden West End. The four actors (three of whom straight from the Menier production) do great work imitating and being generally outrageous – as they should be. It is especially Christina Bianco whose versatility lingers in the mind long after the show has finished.
While the set lacks a revolve, ably mimicked during the scathing take on Les Misérables, its tacky simplicity is a good fit for the numerous costume designs (Morgan Large and Alvin Colt) to pass revue. Joel Fram on the piano is like a rock to cling on to as the good times centre stage continue to roll. Musically, the show is a delight: we’re basically getting all the good bits and only need the attention span of a toddler.
Near the end of the second act, when you really start thinking the resources must be exhausted, there is a final comment a tad more severe than what came before: corporate involvement in commercial theatre is presented in Nazi convention style, in a neat finish to what is an affectionate roast of all that musical theatre has to offer. Might you wonder whether there is a need for an overarching narrative to tie it all together, think of that as a clever poking fun of most musicals, too.
Economising? Forbidden Broadway renders a number of expensive musical visits unnecessary, as the show triumphantly gets to the (s)core and starts chipping away at their grandeur – in the friendliest manner possible.
Forbidden Broadway is playing at the Vaudville Theatre until 22 November. For more information and tickets see the Nimax Theatres website.