“Forbidden Broadway.” Few words strike more fear in stage icons -- nor incite greater anticipation for theater fans.
Absent three years after a decades-long run, Gerard Alessandrini’s high-spirited, low-tech, take-no-prisoners revue is back. The goal: pitilessly parodying Broadway hits, stars and egos.
The targets of “Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking” include Ricky Martin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bernadette Peters, Matthew Broderick, Stephen Sondheim, Mary Poppins and, of course, Spider-Man.
If you’ve paid hard cash to see their shows, you’ll get the insider jokes. Even if not, however, the nonstop flurry of wig and costume changes, along with Alessandrini’s spot-on spoofery, will keep you entertained at a fraction of the prices down the street.
“Lost my show, lost my cash,” former “Spider-Man” director Julie Taymor (Natalie Charle Ellis) sings to Bono (Scott Richard Foster). “I wound up writing some Broadway trash,” he replies, as an effigy of the super-hero plops to the floor.
If the show has a patron saint, it’s Sondheim.
“In Stephen’s ear, I’m still on key a lot. In Stephen’s mind, I can still play Dot, and I can stay hot,” sings Jenny Lee Stern as a long-in-the-tooth Peters.
The show suggests the last time Peters was fully tuned was in 1983, when she played Dot, Seurat’s muse, in “Sunday in the Park With George.”
The limber cast of four play 50 roles. (The fifth member is the enthusiastic pianist David Caldwell.) They’re amply assisted by Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik’s wigs, Philip Heckman’s costumes and Alessandrini’s talent for putting caustic lyrics to familiar tunes.
“Forbidden Broadway” went AWOL when the director and lyricist said there wasn’t enough new material worth spoofing.
Three years later his cup runneth over.
There’s Ellis singing “Feed the ’Burbs,” a send-up of “Feed the Birds” from the sickly-sweet “Mary Poppins.”
Stevens and Stern mock Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone in their cringe-inducing concert show.
Stern, the breakout star in this superb ensemble, gets such choice targets as Elena Roger, Argentine star of the “Evita” revival.
“I got out of Buenos Aires,” she sings. “You wanna know why they got-a rid of me? It’s my utter lack of star quality,” she warbles.
Some of the darts are toss-offs, little more than visual one-liners. A few fall flat. But Foster delivers a devastating caricature of angsty singer Steve Kazee, of “Once.” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Anything Goes” and even TV’s “Smash” all take it on the chin.
Of course, Alessandrini’s target isn’t only these shows.
His real target is the critics who praise them. We’re the ones forever being stunned, haunted, dazzled, gobsmacked, blown away and otherwise given to ejaculations of ecstasy or revulsion.
“Forbidden Broadway” merrily takes us all down a notch. Nice work, if you can get it.
Through Jan. 6, 2013, at the 47th Street Theatre, 304 W. 47th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: ****
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Very Good ** Good * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Craig Seligman and Weekend.