It’s back to Broadway as we gear up for a new season of hits, flops and everything in between. To kick things off, contributor Scott Redman gives a listen to the new cast recording of Forbidden Broadway: Comes Out Swinging.
The satirical revue has been running sporadically Off Broadway since the 1980s. All of the versions of the shows have been conceived by Gerard Alessandrini whose signature talent of twisting show tunes into humorous jilts while poking fun of writers, actors, directors, composers, and producers on the rialto has become a tradition of its own.
Highlights from the latest incarnation include scenes from the Jason Robert Brown Fan Club (guess who’s the President?) and laugh out loud zips from Kelli O’Hara’s character in The Bridges of Madison County, “I live here with my kids and Sutton Foster’s brother…” Idina Menzel gets a hilarious nod in “Let it Blow” making ample use of the Frozen anthem and showcasing her prowess as one of Broadway’s belters. Liza Minnelli gets a moment in the spotlight commenting on the revival of Cabaret and battling it out with the new Sally Bowles, Michele Williams.
Unfortunately, many of the other show jabs don’t land, mostly because they rely on a single punch line in the song’s refrain to carry the joke. The Matilda skit attempts to replace the original “Revolting Children” lyric with “We are exploited children” …Aladdin gets “Disney Cheese” as the hook and it slips right off. Les Miz gets ridiculed for the new projections used in the revival. These quips land flat and lack a humor that doesn’t go anywhere passed its delivery. The skits land best when accompanied by a larger commentary rather than one-liners that don’t really land. Kinky Boots, Bullets Over Broadway, Pippin, and more all have songs but meld together in a vague haze that is sadly boring and seldom humorous—perhaps better appreciated in live performance with costumes and requisite camp.
Missing from this piece are classic Forbidden Broadway moments. Earlier renditions included an adult actress belting out Annie’s title song, “Tomorrow”, with a lipstick-stained cigarette, lamenting “I’m 30 years old and still playing Annie!” Another memorable poke was The Phantom of the Opera and Cats producer Cameron Mackintosh’s “Favorite Things” taken from The Sound of Music with clever lyrics illuminating his obsession with show branding and selling show themed merchandise.
Through the years of listening to the various albums and seeing the show numerous times, Forbidden Broadway has good years and not so exciting years. This latest edition seems to have hoped its claws would scrape through the greasepaint but unfortunately doesn’t achieve a knockout. Here’s looking forward to next season!