The Review: Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation
Surprising us almost right off the bat, Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation skips gleefully forward with a clever game of Broadway goosing. It’s filled to the brim with whip smart songs and stellar performances that skewer about every show on Broadway from Frozen to Fiddler (in Yiddish). It does it with a dollop of loving humor and a bullseye sting that makes you giggle and gawk with joy, as you simultaneously nod with an appreciative nudge to your friend’s torso. The performers nail their jabs with precision which is what makes this poke and dig filled to the brim with Broadway adoration. Only those who love every inch of Broadway can find so much joy making fun of it.
Standout Immanuel Houston, who rises to the stars on Holliday wings, starts the production off with almost stereotypical standard appeal, only to be sidelined and hoodwinked by the fantastic foursome: Chris Collins-Pisano (Gateway’s Flashdance), Aline Mayagoitia (Resident Theatre’s Eva Perón in Evita), Jenny Lee Stern (Broadway/National Tour of Rocky, Jersey Boys) and Joshua Turchin (Hollywood Bowl’s The Little Mermaid). They are seemingly fresh off the tour bus track, and creating trouble for the emcee before boarding that Broadway train, courtesy of a Houston/Andre De Shields whistle blow. You’re gonna (wanna) ride that train, trust me.
Created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini (NYMF’s Madame X. The Musical) who is responsible for 25 editions of Forbidden Broadway all over the world, with fresh saucy choreography by an inventive Gerry McIntyre (York Theatre’s Hallelujah Baby!), and musical direction by Fred Barton (conducted Anthony Quinn in Zorba) tickling the keys on the piano at the rear, the playfulness is in full frenzied swing. Circulating through the Playbills of Broadway with a ferociously funny twist and turn, the cast changes hats and outfits, thanks to the deliciously spot on costuming by Dustin Cross (Off-Broadway’s The Other Josh Cohen) on a set (and poster) designed by Glenn Bassett (Off-Broadway’s Spamilton), with Beetlejuice spirited enterprise. Each of the five cast members find the spotlight and tirelessly entertains with unflagging glee. Turchin is a has-been most Dear. Stern shines super bright, especially when playing an annoyed and potent Judy Garland doing Renee Zellweger and then outdoing Renee’s cinematic Roxie Hart with Judy’s appeal, It’s magnificently meta and marvelous what Stern does- well, what they all do, mashing together wit and wise re-workings from the scores of Tootsie, Ain’t Too Proud, Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Oklahoma!, The Prom, A Chorus Line, and even The Ferryman. God, I hope you get it.
Other standouts are the hilarious and exacting ridiculing of the sharp “Fosse/Verdon“ by Stern and Collins-Pisano with classics from their fame splashed forward with precision and delight, cause Whatever Fosse Wants, we get, in abundance. There is, courtesy of Mayagoitia’s Olivo, a rude sparkling and on-point funny nitpicking of Moulin Rouge!, alongside Lin-Manuel, Billy Porter, Sondheim, Harold Prince, and the magnificent Cy Coleman’s triple-threat (Stern, Mayagoitia, Houston) song from the glorious Sweet Charity tweaked with a few Broadway legends. Even Mary Poppins Returns finds a place to land on stage with heart and humor. Stern delivering a Mary worthy of the Lost Shows laid to rest one after the other with exacting pinches to our funny bone. Forbidden Broadway – The Next Generation is pure joy and silly fun. As Persephone says, it “takes a lot of medicine. To make it through the wintertime“, and this is just the right kinda festive pill. So “ride that train to the end of the line“. It ain’t hell that is waiting for you at the other end, just a hilarious bit of heaven, ridiculously divine and perfectly delivered, with sass and smarts.