Forbidden Broadway has spent more than 25 years in New York satirising the best and the worst of the Great White Way. Fighting Chance Productions’ decision to bring a version of the popular revue to Vancouver is a curious one.
The Off-Broadway musical revue made its debut way back in 1982 and has been rewritten over the years to make room for the inclusion of newer shows. Some of the parodies have held up better than others and I was eager to see which would be included in this incarnation and whether they would find a receptive audience here.
Satire like this, demands some familiarity with the source material, and the more familiarity, the better. I needn’t have worried; the night I attended, the intimate PAL Theatre was heavily laden with local musical-theatre buffs in high spirits. As a whole, they caught pretty much every musical reference thrown their way.
And there were a lot for them to catch. Everything from Rent, to Les Misérables, to Hairspray. The strongest audience reactions came for the send-ups of shows that have been seen locally recently.
The cast of five (plus a guest appearance, by the company’s artistic director) do a respectable job with some of the more difficult material. Kudos to Andrea Bailey, Natalee Fera, Aaron Lau, David Nicks and Cathy Wilmot. Serviceable impressions of Broadway icons can be a tall order, but they mostly deliver.
“Defying Subtlety” poked cleverly at both Wicked and Idina Menzel. Cathy Wilmot’s lipstick-smeared Carol Channing was a humourous tribute to the legend’s longtime role as Dolly Levi. Wilmot also does a larger-than-life Ethel Merman mocking the current trend of over-micing performers.
Also on the mark were good-natured jabs at Liza Minnelli, Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim, respectively. “Into the Words” skillfully incorporated elements of Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods.
Considerably less-successful were parodies of Fiddler on the Roof, Cats and Barbra Streisand. The weaker material dragged down the show’s pacing. As well, at least one of the singers had difficulty projecting to the back of the venue.
Forbidden Broadway won’t be to everyone’s liking, but musical-theatre followers will welcome the chance to make light of some of their idols, if only for a night.
Fighting Chance Productions presents Forbidden Broadway from January 6 – 16, 2010 at the PAL Theatre, 581 Cardero St. Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.