Forbidden Broadway Paints the Great White Way With a Coat of Parody

By Harry Haun
11 Aug 2012

Jenny Lee Stern and Natalie Charlé Ellis

There's no time limit on these fun-pokes, either. "Something doesn't have to be running to be stuck in an audience's mind," he says. "People still talk about Catherine Zeta-Jones in A Little Night Music, and if they're still laughing about her Tony Award number, we might go there and see if we get a response.

"There's something about theatre audiences: You aren't restricted to doing what they do on Broadway. If a celebrity's not in a show but attached to it — Bono with Spider-Man or Trey Parker with Book of Mormon — you can bring them into the skit."

Alessandrini admits he'll likely go after Parker, but won't try for any Spider-Man swatting. He'll take the lower road, thank you very much. "The accidents have already been highly satirized in every media outlet in the world. I think what we will focus on will be Bono and Julie Taymor and the pending lawsuit."

Continuing to throw a wide net, he hopes to ensnare Hugh Jackman in the upcoming Les Misérables film as well as Megan Hilty and Angelica Huston in the "Smash" series.

And the fact that Elena Roger is the first authentic Argentine to play Eva Perón on Broadway does not give her special dispensation. In fact, Alessandrini threatens, "We're thinking maybe we should have Patti LuPone come in and give her diction lessons."

Audra McDonald does rate a pass in Alessandrini's book, but the fast-and-loose treatment of the Porgy and Bess score does not. "Well, Gershwin's Gone Now So We Can Do What We Want" may be the line of attack. "I thought the music was unjustly tampered with. The music in the movie version was tampered with by Andre Previn — but in a really great way. He expanded the orchestrations, made the perfect cuts, moved this, moved that. It's so brilliantly done that it's true to the idea of the original and closer to what Gershwin would have wanted."

Then there's Newsies, that aggressive song-and-dance about the 1899 newsboys' strike against their penny-pinching publisher, Joseph Pulitzer. "I really enjoyed that show," Alessandrini beams blissfully. "I think they should have given it the Pulitzer Prize, just for a good sense of humor, but they didn't — so we'll have to in Forbidden Broadway."

At 58, Alessandrini is still Broadway's bad boy, on an eternal wild tear around town.

(This feature appears in the August 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)