Posts Tagged ‘Gerard Alessandrini’

Musical theatre parody Forbidden Broadway has been running in NYC for thirty-six years in a large number of incarnations and has had two London runs in the last ten years, one even transferring to the West End. I think its a mark of respect that they’ve renamed this 2016 incarnation after the show they’ve built it around.

Morgan Large’s design is a mini-Hamilton set and cloned costumes. Most of the show contains numbers from Hamilton with new lyrics, performed by just five actors. The way they’ve structured it, about as well as parodying Hamilton, they are able to go off at tangents with references to writers like Sondheim and Lloyd Webber, spoofing their shows too, plus others like Wicked and Annie, and we even get a visit from a famous diva.

It’s great fun, but I do think the pace is relentlessly fast. Though I’ve seen Hamilton, and most of the other shows it parodies, even I couldn’t keep up, missing more than I was happy with. It’s faster than Hamilton, which is probably the point, but it’s at the expense of total comprehension. I wished it would have come up for air and given the audience a breather every now and again.

The five main performers – Marc Akinfolarin, Jason Denton, Eddie Elliott, Liam Tamne and Julie Yammanee – are all terrific, good enough to be in the show they are spoofing. There are lovely cameos from Damian Humbley, notably as Hamilton’s King George, and Sophie-Louise Dann, including that infamous diva. Simon Beck gamely and brilliantly accompanies on a grand piano. The energy and enthusiasm of all eight is infectious; you have a ball because they are.

Writer / director Gerard Alessandrini gives us a parody that is also a homage to a show he clearly loves, and a musical form he’s a big fan of. Great fun.

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I wasn’t sure I wanted to see a new ‘edition’ of this revue show just five years after the last one, but the reviews suggested otherwise and I have zero willpower, so off to the Menier we go.

Gerard Alessandrini’s show parodies musicals and it has been running on-and-off (but mostly on) in New York City for 32 years; now in its 19th ‘edition’. It has apparently had outings in Sydney, Tokyo and Singapore and this is the 2nd UK version. The format is the same, but the shows change. Four singers, accompanied by a pianist, solo or in combination, perform parodies of 13 shows plus a few performer profiles. Some hit the mark better than others, but they’re all fun.

In this edition, the highlight for me was that old warhorse Les Mis; it’s extraordinary how many laughs you can get from a (non-existent) revolve. Miss Saigon, The Book of Mormon and Once were also huge fun, probably because they were also amongst the most biting, and the title song of Sondheim’s Into the Woods became Into the Words, with performers charting the challenges of singing Sondheim. Of the performer parodies, there was a great song duel between Rita Moreno and Chita Riviera.

You have to know and like musicals to appreciate this show, and you also have to expect things you love to be treated mercilessly, but if you do it’s great fun. What helps here is the fact that it’s delivered by four of our finest musical performers. Damian Humbley is more than good enough to sing the lead in Les Mis, but even better parodying it. Ben Lewis is a dead ringer for Charlie’s new Willy, complete with matching costume. Anna-Jane Casey is way too good for Wicked but her parody is a hoot. Sophie-Louise Dann is an absolutely hilarious Matilda.

The Menier was a bit like a sauna and there was an unscheduled 35-minute technical break 15 minutes in, but neither could dampen the immense fun had by all. Though it’s written by an American, given that 11 of the 13 shows parodied are currently in the West End (and another recently departed), with 6 starting out here, maybe it’s time to change the show’s title?

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