What’s it all about?
After more than 35 years and dozens of runs on both sides of the pond, musical theatre satirical cabaret Forbidden Broadway reached cult status long ago but only now finally takes its rightful place in the West End.
If you’ve never heard of it, now is the time to play catch up as a quartet of hugely talented stars bring the show to the Vaudeville Theatre. With the help of just one pianist and an array of delightfully homemade props, audiences are taken on a side-splittingly funny whistle-stop tour of the West End and Broadway’s legendary offerings and musical theatre greats in a series of affectionately mocking skits.
No one is safe from a lovingly teasing jibe; whether you’re a 10-year-old Matilda with an Olivier Award or the gloriously verbose Stephen Sondheim you’ll find yourself a target in Gerald Alessandrini cleverly reworded hits. In his brilliantly witty hands, Matilda The Musical’s Revolting Children becomes a protest song as a hilarious precious trio of Billy, Gavroche and Matilda unite for a rousing rendition of We Are Exploiting Children, while Wicked gets an update in the tongue in cheek Defying Subtlety.
Who’s in it?
The secret to the success of this show is its high standards. While this doesn’t mean you can’t recreate Disney’s The Lion King with only the use of some bathroom towels, chopsticks and several toys from the Disney Store (see the photo above if you don’t believe me), Forbidden Broadway is impeccably performed by an exceptionally talented cast that often distract from the biting lyrics with their vocal prowess and comic genius.
Anna-Jane Casey is a spritely minx as she moves from cheeky Jersey Boy to half-cut Liza Minnelli, Damian Humbley soars as everyone from an off key Phantom to beer-swilling Miss Saigon soldier and Ben Lewis proves he can not only do Sondheim but actually be Sondheim.
It is American performer Christina Bianco who proves the show-stealer however; whether it’s a roof-raising near perfect impersonation of Idina Menzel or her “bizarrely cheerful” Kristin Chenoweth-as-an-artistic-schizophrenic routine, her Jane Horrocks-like ability to embody just about anyone is jaw-dropping.
What should I look out for?
The first time Les Misérables has ever been rhymed with Hedda Gabler, a group routine involving a stage revolve that will have you in tears of laughter, Humbley giving a very sexy performance as a high profile producer that might just leave you feeling ever so nauseous and a brilliant analysis of Robert Lindsay’s stage appeal.
Who was in the press night crowd?
Well Robert Lindsay, taking a night off Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, for one. We couldn’t tell what he made of his stitch up – which involved the line “Without me there’s no star and I’m my favourite co-star” – but we spied him buying a programme at the interval, so that’s a good sign.
In a nutshell?
With its uniquely warm-hearted style of mocking, Gerald Alessandrini’s show is a touch of genius. In fact, it’s the most unusual love letter to musical theatre you’re likely to ever see.
What’s being said on Twitter?
@NayfBrine If laughing truly does give your stomach muscles a full work out, I’ve just done the equivalent of 10yrs in the gym #forbiddenbroadway
@luciejones1 I saw #forbiddenbroadway last night in London… Fair to say my face and stomach hurt from laughing so hard by the end! Incredible!
Will I like it?
If you know your Stephen Wards from your Stephen Sondheims, you must see this show. You’ll get every in-joke going and the added bonus of zooming through almost every show playing in the West End. And if you don’t? The quartet’s talents will still have you charmed; whether you’ve seen Once or not, the sight of Casey as a melodramatic pianist who prefers using her toes to tickle the ivories will likely be entertainment enough.