Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back a spoof of old and new shows on the Great White Way, opened Oct. 16 at the Triad (formerly Steve McGraw's Supper Club and Palsson's) on Manhattan's West 72 Street.
This edition of Forbidden Broadway pokes fun at such Broadway luminaries as Cameron Mackintosh, Nathan Lane and Andrew Lloyd Webber; current hits like Rent and Sunset Boulevard; and favorite divas like Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Julie Andrews, Zoe Caldwell, Donna Murphy and Elaine Paige.
Ben Brantley, reviewing the revue for the Times (Oct. 17), raved, "As impersonated with throat-slashing flair by Christine Pedi, [Patti LuPone]...is indeed as bloodthirsty as Jack the Ripper. So is Ms. Pedi as Ms. LuPone as Maria Callas... If the significance of those names in this context escapes you, buy tickets to Cats instead. But if you still believe that the New York theatre is just as dramatic off stage as on...and follow its fortunes in the gossip columns, you should have a mighty fine time here."
"Mr. Alessandrini," Brantley continued, "who wrote and directed this amiable vivisection at the Triad cabaret, knows just how to convert insider's information and insights into pure show-biz energy... That knowledge is shared by the terrific quartet of quick-change artists whose metamorphoses exult in the very styles they skewer."
Aileen Jacobson's review in Newsday was nearly as laudatory: "Alvin Colt's costumes display their usual wit (check out those breast cones on the Evita gown) and the cast members their versatility. Donna English does a brutal Zoe and bell-voiced Julie. David Hibbard captures Michael Crawford's voice and Savion Glover's manic tapping. But the standouts are Forbidden veteran Christine Pedi and Bryan Batt." In his hugely positive review for This Month ON STAGE magazine (Nov. 1996), David Solomon noted, "author/director [Alessandrini] has truly returned to form with two hours of wildly funny -- and nearly all new -- material... Though the songs are obviously written with love, Alessandrini is not above outright cruelty. As a kitty-stroking Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Hibbard is made up so grotesquely, the effect is more nauseating than funny... The show also pegs Sarah Jessica Parker as an irritating ditz, Anne Reinking as a second-rater finally given a starring role by default, and -- hilariously -- Savion Glover as a wiggy tapping machine, unable to stop thumping the floor except to grunt now and then."
The production marks a return to form for Gerard Alessandrini, whose original Forbidden Broadway ran, in annual versions, for more than a decade after its Jan. 15, 1982 opening. When the number of Broadway musicals declined precipitously in the early 1990's, leaving all-too-little fodder for Alessandrini to satirize, he created Forbidden Hollywood, which kidded such box office bonanzas as "Forrest Gump" and "Pulp Fiction."
But even that production took 15 minutes out for theatre material, and people missed the clubbiness and in-jokes of a show devoted entirely to the commercial theatre. With the success of Rent and Bring In `Da Noise, as well as a myriad of classic revivals (The King And I, Forum), Alessandrini once again has enough material to launch a revue.
The current cast features Bryan (Sunset Boulevard, Cats, Jeffrey) Batt, Donna (Ruthless) English, David (Cats) Hibbard and Christine (Forbidden Hollywood) Pedi, with one-man-band Matthew Ward on piano. Phill George choreographs; costumes are by Tony-winner Alvin Colt.
The 93-year-old Bob Hope attended a preview performance and even spoke to the cast and Alessandrini during intermission.
For tickets and information on Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back call (212) 799-4599.
-- By David Lefkowitz and Andrew Gans