Forbidden Broadway – Vaudeville Theatre
There’s a certain clique of people in London’s West End that spend their lives collecting theatre programmes, going to see musicals multiple times in order to see the different casts, and who dress up as Elphaba or the Phantom for Halloween. Forbidden Broadway is a show made for these people.
You could say it is the show that every musical in the West End fears, for it’s sole purpose is to satire and make fun of everything musical theatre. This can be from the songs, characters and even certain actors and composers. Forbidden Broadway was performed earlier this year at the Menier Chocolate Factory and has now transferred over to the Vaudeville Theatre. The danger than many fans have been worrying about is whether the intimacy of the Menier and the simplicity of the show technically can work as well in a much bigger space. However, the quality of the cast and jokes completely dismisses these prejudgements, making this a trademark show in the West End.
There is a small cast in Forbidden Broadway, with only 4 performers (2 male and 2 female) and just a pianist on stage to accompany them. However, every actor plays distinct characters in their solo numbers that make us, as an audience, remember each one of them. Christina Bianco’s performance is a particular highlight. Following her recent viral fame with her rendition of ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, featuring her wide range of diva impressions, this was her West End debut. Unsurprisingly, her Kristen Chenoweth impression cannot be faulted, nor her other acclaimed performance – ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen, which genuinely had me in tears of laughter.
What makes Forbidden Broadway stand out from any other show in the West End, or even revues in general, is how it is prepared to stay relevant yet stir controversy, by referencing recent news or shows in musical theatre. An example of this was them making fun of Madalena Alberto’s performance in Evita recently on at the Dominion Theatre. The fact that the Forbidden Broadway team were able to write a brand new song about this, considering it was only on just under a month ago, just shows how the cast are constantly changing the content of the show in order to fit in with the context and issues currently facing the West End.
However, what may distance audiences from seeing Forbidden Broadway is how in-the-know you have to be in musical theatre in order to understand the majority of the jokes. Some audience members, for instance, had seen Miss Saigon and laughed at the parodied version of it. Some hadn’t. Some people had heard of Bernadette Peters. Again, some hadn’t. It is only with the more ‘mainstream’ musicals that are parodied, such as Wicked or Les Miserables, does the whole audience roar with laughter.
Forbidden Broadway has something for everyone to enjoy, with a mix of mainstream and Fringe musicals being made fun of. Because the show is technically so simple, the talent and humour is, thankfully, never overshadowed, making this the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Nonetheless, honestly, this show is aimed at real musical theatre lovers. However, rather than having to go and see each separate musical in the West End, you can essentially see them all summarised and satirised in Forbidden Broadway – what more is there to ask for?!
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Forbidden Broadway is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 22 November. Click here for more information and to book tickets.