Reviewed by Barbara and Scott Siegel
Presented by John Freedson, Harriet Yellin, and Jon B. Platt at the Stardust Theatre, 1650 Broadway, NYC. Opened Dec. 6 for an open run.
"Forbidden Broadway" is the theatrical equivalent of a floating crap game, with the emphasis very definitely on the crap. The ultimate insider show, this sly and slicing send-up of all things Broadway is in its 18th hilarious year. The new edition, "Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey" does the franchise proud. It may well be—as it often is—the funniest show on or Off-Broadway.
Gerard Alessandrini, who originally conceived the show and who has written its every edition, has also co-directed (with Phillip George) "A Spoof Odyssey" with wit and economy. But it's Alessandrini's writing that ultimately dazzles. There is his take-off on "Trouble" from "The Music Man," which is a biting satirical tour de force ridiculing the play-it-safe nature of today's theatre. And you'll wish you were in the room when he thought of Cheryl Ladd starring in "Annie Get Your Gun," and had the idea to change the lyric "There's no business like show business" to "I've no business in show business."
A vibrant and versatile four person cast plays somewhere between four and 69 million characters. Playing about 62 million of those characters is the gifted Christine Pedi, who plays everyone from Elaine Stritch to Ethel Merman. Felicia Finley is also a standout; her Heather Hedley impression from "Aida" is one of the funniest bits in the show. Danny Gurwin is winning and Tony Nation has a gawky charm, and all four make hay with Alvin Colt's inventively colorful low budget costume designs.
The first act of the show is non-stop hilarity. Every bit hits. The second act is more uneven, but the sketches that work spike high. The reason so much of the comedy works is because it's based on truth. When the ersatz cast of "Les Miserables" comes marching at you, singing about the longevity of their show ("Ten Years More" to the tune of "One Day More"), you know that it's right on the money.