There’s no business like show business. Except maybe comedy that openly mocks show business. With so many shows on the West End and Broadway it’s amazing that so few of them are not targeted by Gerard Alessandrini in his parody that began in 1981 as a two-night only performance.
In its West End debut, Forbidden Broadway has gained the talents of Christina Bianco, who has been making waves since coming to London. As a renowned impressionist, her performances of Idina Menzel and Bernadette Peters have proved very popular, but it’s refreshing to see her on stage as part of a cast.
With just four actors in the show, timing is everything and the speed at which the actors switch costumes, wigs and characters is incredible and at times it’s hard to believe the cast is so small. It’s also interesting to see Ben Lewis in multiple comedy roles; perhaps surprisingly these seem to be more his forte than previous, more serious characters.
Anna-Jane Casey is a fabulous diva, Gavroche and Jersey Boy, while Damian Humbley manages to capture the emotion of ‘God it’s [on] High’ despite mocking the music.
Perhaps one of the reasons why Forbidden Broadway is so successful is because the cast are all incredibly talented singers. They can sing the parts of Jean ValJean and Elphaba as good as current cast members and this is what makes it work.
The other reason is that the writers, like the audience, actually love the shows being mocked, which is why they can pounce on their weaknesses. Once is a fantastic show, but the way it’s portrayed by the cast is so well-observed and true that the audience can only respond with laughter, despite the horrendous accordion and recorder playing.
Les Misera-blah is mercilessly mocked for its rotating stage and awkward comedy duo, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for having ‘No [Pure] Imagination’, while Robert Lindsay (sitting near the front of the stage) comes under fire for being… Robert Lindsay. Meanwhile Matilda teams up with Billy Elliot and Gavroche because they ‘are Exploited [Revolting] Children’.
At times there are less obvious parodies and an audience that doesn’t live and breathe theatre might struggle here, especially with the references to some stagey legends that are less well-known to a British or younger audience.
However, Forbidden Broadway is a ridiculously funny show that will have you rolling in the aisles, especially if you pride yourself on being an avid theatre goer. The irony is that you will leave the theatre with the original song versions stuck in your head, but then realise that you’ve genuinely forgotten what the real words are. If so, just remember to sing, ‘I am a moron… And a moron just believes!’
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Forbidden Broadway is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 22 November 2014. Click here to book tickets.