Bass Hall performance spoofs the Great White Way

Posted Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Certain Broadway shows are such an integral part of American culture that they are sacrosanct and unassailable.

Fortunately, the cast of Forbidden Broadway hasn’t seen any of them.

Instead this hysterical revue comprising brilliant and biting parodies of show tunes and show people, which played a one-night stand at Bass Hall on Thursday, took its shots at the Great White Way’s bloated and self-important hits ranging from Phantom of the Opera to Oklahoma!

In short, the quartet of highly talented musical theater actors skewered pretty much everything. They were wicked in their treatment of Wicked. They were miserable about Les Miserables. And they felt Once was enough for anyone. If there was a show called Mother Teresa: The Musical (and, please, don’t anybody get any ideas), this crew would have done it as a send up of Nunsense.

And they would have done it well.

The true star of this revue, which dates its origins to an off-Broadway version in 1982, is its creator, writer and original director, Gerard Alessandrini. His tongue-twisting parodies are absolutely inspired. But none of this would have been nearly as funny were it not for the abundant acting and singing skills of Valerie Fagan, Kevin B. McGlynn, Craig Laurie and Jeanne Montano, who were ably supported by musical director Catherine Stornetta, performing at an on-stage piano. The lyrics were usually a real hoot but, in many cases, it was the way they were delivered that made the bit work.

No one was spared. Bob Fosse, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mary Poppins and even Yoko Ono were flung merrily under the nearest passing bus in this Performing Arts Fort Worth presentation before a modest crowd of about 400.

Lyrics and titles were tied in delightful knots. For example, the hit tune from Wicked — Defying Gravity — was changed to Defying Subtlety to lampoon the lack thereof in the show.

Two of the best shots fired were aimed at stars rather than shows. Fagan’s attack on the helium-voiced soprano (and one-time Mrs. Lloyd Webber) Sarah Brightman was probably the most memorable moment of the night. The vocal gymnastics she displayed in that number were amazing. And Laurie had about as much fun with Mandy Patinkin.

Some of the jokes were a bit inside. The audience did not seem to know Once, for example, but they found the quartet’s pounding of it funny all the same. And a few choices were a stretch or were out of date. Ono took a beating for a show that was on Broadway for just a few weeks and, while their miming of being on a turntable doing Les Miz was one of the more clever visual jokes, that show (or at least the touring version of it) no longer uses that device.

But almost everything else hit its mark or was close enough to be worth a guffaw. It was our good fortune on Thursday night that the members of the show’s cast were not stuck in Manhattan performing in one of the shows they were spoofing. But like Mark Antony shoveling the dirt over Caesar, they came here to bury Broadway, not to praise it.

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