Saturday, May 2, 2009

review - Forbidden Broadway

Photo credit: Alysa Brennan
top to bottom, clockwise: Susanne Blakeslee as Carol Channing, David Engel as Harvey Fierstein,
Larry Raben & Whitney Allen from The Lion King spoof.

Forbidden Broadway
created and writen by Gerard Alessandrini
Musical Theatre West @ Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Long Beach
directed and staged by William Selby
musical director: Michael Paternostro
through May 17
Parody must have bite to grab hold of an audience. Well, Forbidden Broadway has the incisors of a shark and the claws of a lion, and theatre folk just clammer to have their gods and divas dished and even devoured. The musical scenes are irreverently funny with a comic disclaimer at the beginning, but, hell, if the celebs can't take it, they don't belong in SHOW BIZ! Let's credit Gerard Alessandrini whose genius in writing scathing new lyrics to already well-known Broadway tunes has become legendary. And...Musical Theatre West's current production - the first volume, for them - is devilish, scrumptious and a helluva good show.
David Engel, Larry Raben, Susanne Blakeslee and Whitney Allen essay about 50 different characters in the 90 minute performance, changing wigs and costumes in a flash...flawlessly. Blakeslee, one of the original stars of Forbidden Broadway, is an astounding performer. She can sing like Carol Channing, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, Julie Andrews and at times can even sound like ...Susanne Blakeslee...What an amazing talent! You'll leave the theatre singing her praises. Engel and Raben are forever charming and delightful. Talk about versatility! Raben's finest moments come in this show as Mandy Patinkin, as Daniel Radcliffe doing the nude scene in Equus and as Stephen Sondheim. Engel's triumphs include Cervantes in Man of La Mancha, the Phantom and Harvey Fierstein in drag from Hairspray, among many others. The fourth member of the troupe Whitney Allen does splendid work with Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters. Michael Paternostro is a whiz at the piano.
The whole evening is top-notch and of Broadway calibre. A great treat, especially for theatre-lovers, and another feather in the cap of Musical Theatre West.
5 out of 5 stars


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