Robert Tanitch reviews Forbidden Broadway at Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre, London, SE1
For those of you who thought revue had died years ago and longed for its return, I have good news. Revue is back in town, doing what it always did best in the 1920’s 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s and that was sending up hit musicals and the actors who appeared in them.
Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway has been successfully lampooning Broadway musicals in New York for over 30 years. For theatre buffs, and especially musical buffs, the show will be heaven.
The writing is a clever marriage of hit songs from long-running shows (so the music is familiar and tuneful) and new, barbed lyrics at their expense.
If you haven’t seen Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon, Once, The Lion King, Wicked and Miss Saigon you will be completely at a loss. But if you have, you are in for a good time.
Some of the best laughs are at the expense of Les Mis (played out on a silly mimed non-stop revolve) and Lion King (in which the cast have all got cracked neck joints from having to wear top-heavy head-gear).
Liza Minnelli, Stephen Sondheim, Chita Rivera, Elaine Page, Patti Lupone, Mandy Patinkin, Cameron Mackintosh and Julie Andrews are sent up something rotten. Angela Lansbury is actually celebrated.
The wigs and costumes are always absolutely spot-on and a good laugh in their own right. Philip George’s production moves at a brisk pace and the quick-changes are amazingly quick.
The talented cast of four includes Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis. The second half is particularly funny.