By William Wolf


All is well again as a favorite off-Broadway institution skewers Broadway shows with a comic vengeance. “Forbidden Broadway” is back after a hiatus, and indeed, it does “Come Out Swinging” with new takes on a variety of shows. Credit once again creator and writer Gerard Alessandrini, with co-direction by Phillip George and Alessandrini, and with additional dialogue by George.

Most revues are uneven, with some sketches better than others as is the case here, but laughs still fill the theater for just about everything. What never ceases to amaze me is the caliber of performers cast in “Forbidden Broadway” shows over the years. In the new edition two women and two men—Carter Calvert, Mia Gentile, Scott Richard Foster and Marcus Stevens—do the honors, and they are amazing with their versatility and ability to imitate various Broadway performers with the art of brush-stroke caricature. David Caldwell adds a major contribution as musical director and pianist.

I would like to be backstage to watch the quick changes in costumes and wigs as the four dart into the wings to prepare for yet other entrances as different characters. Costume designers Dustin Cross and Philip Heckman and wig designer Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnick should take bows.

There are so many comic highlights. Take the satire of “Les Miserables,” which has been ribbed before. Latching onto the latest revival, the cast hilariously fixes on the use of projections instead of elaborate sets this time around. There is a new number, “One Run More” that can also apply to the spate of revivals.

“Rocky” gets a going over, with Marcus Stevens as Andy Karl and Scott Richard Foster showing up as Sylvester Stallone, together making fun with a bumbling lack of language skills. In a “Pippin” number, Carter Calvert does a riotous Andrea Martin in a mocking of the show’s exuberance. Calvert and Foster team as the lovers of “The Bridges of Madison County” to make them look absurdly over-heated.

As for “Cabaret,” Foster is a riot as Alan Cumming, and Calvert does a hilarious impression of Liza Minnelli who wants to sing all the songs and performs, Liza-style, “So What?” the number sung in “Cabaret” by Linda Emond as Fräuline Schneider. With Gentile as Michelle Williams, we also see Calvert’s mocking of Liza’s jealousy.

In another funny impression, Stevens does a broad take as Mandy Patinkin soloing. A highlight is Gentile’s ribbing of Idina Menzel, belting as if there were no tomorrow. “Bullets Over Broadway” gets its comeuppance, with Calvert looking a lot like Susan Stroman, and Stevens capturing exaggerated mannerisms of Woody Allen in a number about how to ruin a show.

“Juke Box Medley” kids an assortment of characters, as Gentile is a Teresa Brewer type, Calvert does Donna from “Mamma Mia,” Foster mimics Frankie Valli from “Jersey Boys,” Gentile doubles as Diana Ross from “Motown” and Calvert gives a hilarious version of Carole King from “Beautiful.”

Other shows at which the slings and arrows are tossed cleverly include “Matilda," "Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots.” The cast seems much larger than four, given the number of performers they morph into.

To cite further examples, Calvert churns laughs as Fran Drescher in “Cinderella,” as a harem girl in “Aladdin” and as Matilda in the show of that name. Stevens does the Genie and Foster does Aladdin from that musical. I could go on and on, there is so much the four performers of “Forbidden Broadway” pack into the spirited, rollicking satire. See for yourself. At the Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed May 5, 2014.


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