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

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11 Aug 2012

Gerard Alessandrini
Gerard Alessandrini

Forbidden Broadway, the satiric revue that pokes commercial theatre in the eyes, is back. And no one, not even Jesus, is spared.

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"There were three Jesuses on Broadway this year — Jesus Christ Superstar, The Book of Mormon and Godspell," notes Gerard Alessandrini. "And when you think about it, who else but Jesus could star in three Broadway shows at once?"

No one, not even the Son of God, is safe from Alessandrini's satirical wrath in the 30th-anniversary edition of Forbidden Broadway, which opens Sept. 6. Brace yourself for multiple Jesuses jumping all over the stage — somewhere between that gleeful revolutionary Ricky Martin and a dancing Matthew Broderick.

Alessandrini is returning to the scene of his past crimes against Merman, Martin and Minnelli — the 47th Street Theatre — with a renewed vengeance. In a manner of speaking, it's a kind of second coming. After 27 seasons of incisive satire, Forbidden Broadway took an intermission that lasted three years, Alessandrini preferring to sit it out till Broadway stockpiled enough spoofable targets to make a decent ribbing.

"That break definitely helped," he says. "Before, it was always 'Is there enough stuff around to do a new edition?' Now, having skipped a few years, that's not a problem at all. In fact, there's probably more to do than we can actually do." (A good thing.)

Scott Richard Foster and Marcus Stevens
photo by Carol Rosegg

He's spending all of August — plus a week on both sides of that — in previews, trying out material, seeing what works and what doesn't. Currently the bill of fare is in great flux. "Comedy, you have to hone. You have to find out where the laughs are. For the true theatre aficionados, I always say, 'Come for an early preview, then come back. You'll see a different show.'

"It'll probably be the same length as the other ones. That's about 30 numbers: 16 in the first act, one or two less in the second."

Alessandrini's conspicuous love of theatre somehow keeps his laughs from landing mean-spiritedly, and that love has been returned with an honorary Tony and, indeed, awards from virtually every theatre organization in existence. You'll not find him at the theatre furiously scribbling notes with a quill dipped in venom. In fact, you may not find him at all, subtly disguised as a member of the audience like a Times restaurant critic. "I hate to take notes because it distracts you from looking at the show. I just try to go to the show and enjoy it, or not enjoy it, as best I can."

His modus operandi is quite different from that of the card-carrying critic. "I can study a show after it's opened. I can get the cast album — sometimes, the script or libretto or music. And, of course, I love to listen to the buzz around town. When you hear certain complaints repeated, then you know you're in the right ballpark."



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