‘Forbidden Broadway’ brings out the absurd and ironic themes in classics.
The stage at the Gateway Playhouse was opened up to parody and satire of classic shows and new hits in “Forbidden Broadway,” a long-running Off-Broadway musical. In the song-heavy show with a small cast, the audience is taken through the many hits and stars of Broadway with a new twist.
“Forbidden Broadway” is directed by original writer and creator Gerard Allesandrini. He is the recipient of an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, two Lucille Lortel Awards, a Drama League Lifetime Achievement Award, three Drama Desk Awards and a Tony Honor for Excellence in Theatre. In 1982, he created “Forbidden Broadway,” which has spawned 15 editions, eight cast albums and a 27-year run in New York.
The talent present in the cast of “Forbidden Broadway” is obvious from the first song. Stars Bill Coyne and Mia Gentile were the standout performers, with a comedic sense that was essential for this show. Coyne can switch demeanor on a dime and has the ability to transform into each role as the show progresses. His parody of Hugh Jackman was a highlight of the show. Gentile is a master of the voice, with a powerful belt and strength in different accents. She was even able to transform into Frankie Valli for a rendition “honoring” the Jersey Boys.
It’s a personal experience. Some may find “Hamilton” jokes funnier than “Mary Poppins” jokes. Some may not have an idea of who Evan Hansen is. Throughout the show, different areas of the audience connected with different scenes, which makes each show a unique experience.
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT
The show is filled with funny moments. The cast is each very talented with impressions, turning into iconic characters like Elsa from “Frozen” and cast members from “Les Misérables.” The cast was really able to change the mood with each new song, often very different than the one before. For me, the biggest star of the night was musical director and pianist Robert Felstein, who played nearly nonstop for the entire show. For some simply great music, Felstein’s performance is a must-see.
There were moments of commentary that were funny and appropriate for the show, like how puppets are sure to please the crowd or how every movie is becoming a musical. The cast also did a great job using little props to bring across the feeling of each new show. Part of the win for this parody is a cast member dressing up in gray towels with an accordion tubenose to portray an elephant for “The Lion King.”
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T
The caveat that comes with enjoying this show’s full potential is the breadth of Broadway or show-biz knowledge the viewer has. For example, I was awkwardly looking around during the “Cameron Mackintosh” to see what I was missing, since I had never heard of the producer without the help of Google (my apologies to Sir Mackintosh). Or if you haven’t seen “Dear Evan Hansen,” you may not be in on the running jokes of the show. Younger audiences probably don’t know who Ethel Merman or Bernadette Peters are.
The show could have capitalized more on parody opportunities. Often times the best comedy isn’t the joke that is flat-out said, but the one that leads you to the punch line on your own. There could have been more satire based in social commentary, as the times it was used seemed to be the biggest hits with the audience.
HOW TO SEE IT
“Forbidden Broadway” is playing at the Gateway from now through June 22. Ticket prices range from $49-$89 per show. For a complete list of show times, pricing and more information about the season, visit TheGateway.org. Tickets can be bought online or through the box office at 631-286-1133. Student Rush price is $35 one hour before show time with a student ID.