Three years after he spoofed “Hamilton” in “Spamilton” (with “I am not throwing away my shot” becoming “I am not gonna let Broadway rot,”) Gerard Alessandrini paints Lin-Manuel Miranda less heroically in “Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation,” the 26th edition of the hit-or-miss, but must-see, satirical revue.
Miranda (portrayed by Chris Collins-Pisano in a Hamilton costume) duets with Billy Porter (Immanuel Houston in a red dress) with “Ev’rything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy retitled “Ev’rything Now Is Inclusive,” and given new lyrics:
Billy: Linny, ev’ryone now can dress up in their mama’s clothes!
Lin-Manuel: Ev’ryone now can start rapping when they compose!
Billy: Ev’ryone now has a chance to play Mama Rose
Both: Ev’rything now is inclusive
For me….. And for me!
I detect a stinging rebuke in that song – a comment on how self-serving some of the most admired socially conscious artists can be. Who else could get away with such criticism besides Alessandrini, who for nearly 40 years has been delivering sometimes lethal barbs gift-wrapped with humor by a small ensemble of talented entertainers on a cabaret stage.
If “Forbidden Broadway” is uneven, so is Broadway. Indeed, as in past editions, the Next Generation at the Triad offers something of a snapshot of the current state of The Great White Way — where, as Houston sings in the opening number, “the white is gray and the great is only okay.”
It is telling that some of the best numbers in this Forbidden Broadway aren’t about theater at all, but theater-adjacent movies and TV shows — “Fosse/Verdon” on FX and the movie “Judy,” both of which feature stand-out cast member Jenny Lee Stern. Stern also portrays Mary Poppins (or more precisely Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins) in a version of the song “The Place Where Lost things Go” from the movie Mary Poppins Returns, re-titled “Where the Lost Shows Go” – which manages to puncture not just Broadway flops ranging from Tarzan to Pretty Woman, but also cruise ship shows and the city of Buffalo.
A couple of numbers lampoon Broadway’s reliance on old movies for new shows. In “It’s Got To Be A Musical,” Collins-Pisano as Beetlejuice says:
You know, there are three things certain in life: Death, taxes aaaannnnd… Sooner or later most every old movie has got to be a musical.” Following Beetlejuice are parodies of Tootsie (“Toot, toot, tootsie you’re hexed/ Mrs Doubtfire’s next”) and Frozen (to the tune of Let It Go, Aline Mayagoitia sings:
Is imagination dead?
Overdone, under fun
kids would rather be home in bed…
Should you see this show?
Rip up your ticket and let it go
Forbidden Broadway reserves its greatest venom for the vulgarity of movie-to-musical Moulin Rouge, renaming it Moulin Rude, and having Mayagoitia as Karen Olivo singing “Diamonds out my wazoo.”
The theater’s tilt towards A Great Woke Way is another current trend that Forbidden Broadway spoofs, not just in that Miranda/Porter duet but in a more sustained effort in “Woke-lahoma!”
Oh! What a mis’rable mornin’
Oh! What a terrible day
i got a sneaky suspicion
Jud Fry is possibly gay
The pleasures of Forbidden Broadway The Next Generation aren’t limited to the cleverness and savvy of Alessandrini’s lyrics, which often scan perfectly with the familiar melody onto which they are grafted. It is also an entertainment because of the physical mimicry, sometimes so spot-on that it’s hilarious. The only time I laughed out loud at the new Forbidden Broadway was during the spoof of “The Ferryman,” especially the dance scene and the way they handle the baby doll. I suppose you would have had to have seen “The Ferryman” to appreciate what the Forbidden cast does (which is probably true of much of the humor in the revue.)
The unsung heroes of the Forbidden franchise are costume designer Dustin Cross and wig designer Conor Donnelly, but the cast members’ facility with the physical mimicry can make a skit… or break it: The “Forbidden Hadestown” number counts as a missed opportunity, in part because Houston fails to evoke De Shield’s distinctive physicality, his silky smooth jazz slide.
The cast members vocal talents can salvage an otherwise relatively lackluster number, such as the skit where three divas (a staple of Forbidden shows) lament how few roles are available for them nowadays; this allows Stern as Bette Midler, Mayagoitia as Bernadette Peters and especially Houston as Jennifer Holiday to belt it out.
That is one of several numbers looking at old Broadway that are unmistakably affectionate, veering on occasion almost into sentiment, and among the most satisfying. These include Harold Prince as the Starkeeper giving the graduation speech from Carousel.
It might just be a coincidence that the ones looking at new Broadway, featuring the “next generation” – particularly Harry Potter and Dear Evan Hansen – are the weakest. These tend to star Joshua Turchin, who has gotten much ink lately as a musical theater wunderkind, “singer, actor, dancer, musician, accompanist, music director, composer, writer,” who got raves for his musical at the Rave Festival about the lives and loves of showbiz preadolescents, entitled The Perfect Fit. The kid is 12 years old. He may not be the perfect fit for “Forbidden Broadway; The Next Generation” or maybe Alessandrini simply doesn’t know yet what to make of the next generation of musical theater and musical theater artists.But Turchin feels certain to be among those who will dominate American musical theater in the 21st century, and he is almost as certain to wind up spoofed in the Forbidden Broadways of the future (Forbidden Broadway:Deep Space Nine? Forbidden Broadway: Discovery?)
Click on any photograph by Carol Rosegg to see it enlarged.
Forbidden Broadway The Next Generation
Created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini; Choreography by Gerry McIntyre. Costume design by Dustin Cross, sig design by Conor Connelly, set and poster design by Glenn Bassett.
Fred Barton at the piano
Cast: Joshua Turchin,Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Piasano, Immanuel Houston,Jenny Lee Stern
Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $75-$129 plus 2-beverage minimum per person.
Forbidden Broadway The Next Generation is scheduled through January 5, 2020