Forbidden Broadway

Marie Clark Musical Theatre. Arts Theatre. 5 Oct 2012

Marie Clark has followed A Chorus Line with a second big hit.  Forbidden Broadway is a hugely funny and entertaining satire, parody and comment on the excessive styles, production values and stars of Broadway mega-musicals.  Since Gerard Alessandrini wrote the original show in 1982, he has renewed it more than a dozen times to keep up with subsequent excessive mega-musicals – he will never be out of work.  Originally designed for a carbaret-style environment, director, musical director and ivories tickler Ben Saunders hammered out the tunes and the rapidly evolving scenes.  No popular musical or creative talent was too big for a bucketing.

Gorgeous Melanie George looked suitably ridiculous in kiddie dress, bright orange curly hair and cigarette, as an aged Orphan Annie barking for a comeback opportunity.  Who else to belt it out as Ethel Merman when the old style voice meets amplified whispers personified by Ron Abelita’s Phantom and his nearly insane facial mannerisms?

Amy Hutchinson and Claire McEvoy as the better half of ABBA types in Mamma Mia suggest that audiences in New York should demand more intellectual musicals, while the tricolor cast of Les Misérables pondered what happened to happiness in musicals.

The attitude-prone David Salter not only showed who’s boss with several great numbers, but he actually learned to throw his voice from studying You Tube for the ventriloquist act in the Chicago scene - during the course of rehearsals, my goodness.  Bravo!

Wordy songs by Sondheim were hammered in an audience sing-along ably lead by Chris Barritt.  Laura Villani’s strong voice rang out in the Chita/Rita number and again in the big dream song of Les Mis.  The point of view of the New York actor was never far away with Shay Aitken’s character purring that playing a feline in Cats is a pretty demeaning but it did buy him a condo.  A terrific spoof using a familiar tune from Fiddler On The Roof, to satirical lyrics (a common and usefully funny device in this show), explained why there are 50,000 actors in Manhattan.

Heather Crawford’s Carol Channing as Dolly of Hello Dolly! with George Bannard and David Salter was screwball funny.  Amy Hutchison held the long high notes from Wicked.  Jenny Scarce-Tolley was fabulous as Barbara Streisand and exaggerations of her vocal idiosyncrasies were accompanied by side-splitting laughter.  But wait a minute, her tour de force as the energised wind-up called Lisa Minelli was without doubt one of the most astonishing impersonations of schtick I can recall in a theatre.  Double bravo!

There was much, much more packed into this two hour show – Hairspray, Rent, Mandy Pantinkin.  If you don’t know the shows from the stars, don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter.  Director Ben Saunders and choreographer Rachel Dow milked the script for the last drop of nuance and double entendre, deftly knowing which lines to plant and which to run over, even though all of them were funny.  Dow’s choreography made everybody look very good and the cast worked as a tight ensemble.  Plenty of great costumes, wigs and quick changes (Mandy Chisholm – costume coordinator).

Need I say an unforgettable night out.  Bravo!  

David Grybowski

When: 5 to 13 Oct
Where: Arts Theatre