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  • Southampton Press
  • Newsday
  • Long Island Advance

  • Broadway still a prime target for 'Forbidden' satire

    By LEE DAVIS
    Published: June 24, 2008

    Some 26 years ago (God, could it really be that many years?) I recall dropping into Palsson's Supper Club somewhere near 72nd street on the upper West Side of Manhattan to see the latest rage touted in all the local papers, the first edition of "Forbidden Broadway," a sendup for sophisticated audiences by Gerard Alessandrini of the Broadway season. I exited Palsson's with my sides aching from laughing so deeply and so often.

    And so are you likely to ache from so much hilarity piled upon hilarity in the latest edition of "Forbidden Broadway," now tearing up the stage of the Gateway in Bellport. Of course, full appreciation does depend upon at least a cursory knowledge of show business, recent musicals, and the shrinking supply of Broadway stars. At least, that was the impression given to this viewer by the audience at the show last Friday night.

    There were audience members shrieking and falling out of their seats, and there were also a goodly number of senior citizens sitting cross-armed, numb and silent. In fairness, at the curtain call, they all sprang to their feet for the usual, obligatory Bellport standing ovation. Go figure.

    Anyway, the Gateway's current edition of the revue, with some of the brand new, a little of the new and a lot of the old, is blessed with a cast of four that are, every one of them, dynamic comic geniuses with glorious singing voices. Erin Crosby, Kevin B. McGlynn, James Donegan and Kristen Mengelkoch, directed by "Forbidden Broadway" veteran Phillip George and musically directed by astonishing pianist Robert Felstein, are uniformly sublime, milking every situation for every drop of its satirical possibilities, mugging, dancing, and indulging in body bruising physical comedy in huge quantities.

    In the background is the presence of the overriding genius in this long running comedy revue-its creator, Gerard Alessandrini. In Bellport, in an evening of 25 or so sendups, only two-those of "Wicked" and an amalgam of physically abundant stars in "Hairspray," need work. The remaining 23 are gems of pointed, original, on-target caricature.

    Of the old favorites, Kristen Mengelkoch's sendup of an aging "Annie" and a mannered Sarah Brightman are side splitters. And fortunately, with the revival of "Gypsy," Patti LuPone is now once again fair game, and Ms. Mengelkoch's sendup of her, down to the trademark twisting of the lips, is treasurable.

    Kevin McGlynn's impersonation of a Cameron MacIntosh more interested in souvenirs than his productions is similarly dissecting. And Mr. McGlynn's delivery of "Man of La Mancha" singing "The Impossible Song," is sidesplitting. (Carol Channing, one of the show's early targets, once said, "Imitation is the sincerest form of battery.") A lot of former divas and heroes come in for their bumps.

    Mr. Alessandrini reportedly, after the Lincoln Center production swept this year's Tonys, penned a last-minute treatment of the latest revival of "South Pacific" especially for Bellport. It's delightful, with lots of contemporary references and marvelous wordplay. "A Cockeyed Optimist" becomes "A Cockeyed Ingenue," and "Some Enchanted Evening" scans and emerges as "Some Endangered Species"-a welcome reference to the lack of good, old-fashioned shows ala Rodgers and Hammerstein on Broadway today.

    In the nearly contemporary category of sendups, Mr. Allesandrini and the cast have endless fun bemoaning the Disneyfication of Broadway that includes a tripping "Little Mermaid" and a "Lion King" with a picture of Mickey Mouse in his headdress. The whole pervasive and annoying habit of miking everyone onstage and the ability of sound men to create voices in stars who have no voices is admirably covered in a satire on "Phantom of the Opera" and Michael Crawford's well-known, by now, crying need for the help of a turned up body mike.

    This is coupled with a delightful caricature by Erin Crosby of Ethel Merman, who never needed a microphone.

    On and on the satire rolls-Brooke Shields in "Chicago," the puppets of "Avenue Q," the language of "Spring Awakening," the costumes of "Jersey Boys," the amateurs starring in "Grease." And a lot more. But the capper, the most hilarious collection of belly laughs, is reserved for a "Forbidden Broadway" classic, "Les Miz" with its many turntables. The Bellport cast sends this one flying into the intermission.

    Veteran designer Alvin Colt's original costumes are multiple jokes all in themselves; Brian Loesch has caught the many moods brilliantly with his lighting design; and a welcome back is due Michael Boyer, not seen at the Gateway for too long, for his busy set, replete with a false proscenium loaded with more junk than a junkyard.

    Broadway aficionados will have more fun than anybody else at Gateway's falling-out-of-your-seat-laughing production of "Forbidden Broadway." But the rest of an audience that loves to laugh will be delighted, too. Don't miss it.

    "Forbidden Broadway" continues through July 6; call 1-888-4-TIX-NOW or visit www.gatewayplayhouse.com.


    Review: 'Forbidden Broadway' at Gateway Playhouse

    By STEVE PARKS
    Published: June 25, 2008


    Five "facts" you didn't know about your favorite Broadway shows.

    OK, we're kidding. And so is "Forbidden Broadway," which for better than a quarter century has made a living skewering the Great White Way's biggest hits and misses. But while the show recycles its best lampoons - the dizzying "Les Miz" turntable medley is by now as famous as the original musical - Gateway Playhouse's new version, directed by Phillip George, who succeeded "FB" creator Gerard Alessandrini as director, also comments on the just-expired Broadway season with fresh and almost-as-funny material.

    So what will you learn from "Forbidden Broadway"?

    "Annie" was orphaned at age 30. Even sadder than a motherless child is an actress who's played her part a generation too long. Kristen Mengelkoch sings "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" with the ennui of a "child" actor fretting about her hair turning gray. Later, Mengelkoch wows us with dead-on impressions of Sarah Brightman (nasty) and Liza Minnelli (deserved).

    The acclaimed revival of "South Pacific" was inspired by the beach makeout scene in "From Here to Eternity."

    Watch Nellie Forbush and that guy with the bad French accent love-wrestling like hormonally afflicted teenagers. Erin Crosby gives us a lisping Kelli O'Hara while Kevin McGlynn's bad wig looks straight out of Monty Python. Speaking of which ...

    "Spamalot" owes its heritage more to a certain canned meat than it does to Monty Python.

    Check out those knights-in-shiny-tin-can costumes by Alvin Colt.

    "Jersey Boys" are really girls. Or at least Frankie Valli is, as sung by Ms. Crosby.

    That way she doesn't need a falsetto on "Walk Like a Man, Sing Like a Girl," accompanied by manly music director Robert Felstein.

    There are no naughty words in "Spring Awakening."

    They've been "Totally Bleeped," as sung innocently by James Donegan and company. But this "Rude Awakening" takeoff makes one of the spoof revue's few serious points: "Don't forget that Broadway classics were shocking in their day."

    WHERE Gateway Playhouse, 215 South Country Rd., Bellport
    WHEN Through July 6
    INFO Tickets $39-$45,
    631-286-1133, gatewayplayhouse.com
    BOTTOM LINE Funnier than most Broadway shows, except maybe the unintentionally funny ones.


    Forbidden Broadway Exposed

    By MICHAEL SORRENTINO
    Published: June 26, 2008

    Tired of cell phones ruining your theater experience? At Bellport's Gateway Playhouse, the penalty for using a cell phone during Forbidden Broadway is . extreme.

    Gateway Playhouse in Bellport began its run of Forbidden Broadway on June 18, a long-running parody of Broadway shows that has been running for 21 years. Spoofing on Forbidden Broadway starts even before the show officially kicks off, as the pre-show announcer makes comments such as "Cell Phone use is punishable by death," and that one of the actors serves as his own understudy. During the two-act show, there are many different parodies that set up and end at a refreshing pace. It essentially feels like you are watching 25 different smaller shows that make up this one big show.

    The show travels around the globe, spoofing Broadway shows such as Grease, Mary Poppins, Spamalot, and many others. The show is often updated spoofing newer Broadway shows like Legally Blonde and is even debuting a spoof on South Pacific at the Gateway Playhouse.

    The four actors in the play have been in versions of Forbidden Broadway in the past, and three of them have performed off-Broadway in New York City. The actors play so many roles over the course of the show with many extreme costume changes, that it often seems like there are more than four of them.

    Some of the parodies include a 30-year-old Annie who hasn't worked since she was 10 and wishes to be revived, a bored actress texting and calling on her iPhone during another revival of Les MisÚrables, and a Grease parody showing the lead roles' disdain for each other since they won their roles on a reality show.

    Additionally, the show takes many jabs at Disney by saying they have so many Disney Broadway shows that it is like they want to turn it into Disney World. It does this through The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid musical parodies.

    Other musicals spoofed in the show include Monty Python's Spamalot, Jersey Boys, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and many others. All of the parodies are hilarious and make well-thought-out jabs in what is essentially a roast of Broadway. One thing to note is that there are some mature themed spoofs in the show, specifically with the spoof of the sexually charged Spring Awakening. Other than that, most of the show is family friendly and the audience at the show had everyone from kids to senior citizens who appeared to love the show's humor.

    Tickets to see Forbidden Broadway can be ordered online at www.gatewayplayhouse.com, by calling 286-1133 or 1-888-4TIXNOW, or by going to the box office at 215 South Country Road in Bellport.