Welcome to Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits #1, now playing Downstairs at the Maj. Where the opening song asks the audience to “come with us to the never land, where the hits get panned”. Well-known musicals including Chicago, Annie, Les Miserables, Spamalot, Cats, Phantom, Wicked and Rent are given a makeover ‘spoof style’ into a fast paced, hilarious night of laughter.
Featuring Zane Alexander, Jaya Henderson, Callan Kneale, Rachel Monamy and Sam McSweeney on piano, with direction by Andrew Dobosz, this production is a slick, toe tapping piece. Somewhat overly indulgent, sings Kneale in one of the earlier songs, in the style of Somewhere over a Rainbow. Indulgent it is. Forbidden Broadway is for anyone who has laughed at the inanity of musical theatre, misheard the lyrics, cringed at the campiness, and moaned at the length of Les Mis. It's all here, sung with brilliant timing and clarity by the four young performers.
Originally written by Gerald Alessandrini, Forbidden Broadway started as an off Broadway revue parodying musical theatre. Alessandrini has rewritten the show over a dozen times over the years, with the latest version in 2012.
Into the Woods is cleverly turned into Into the Words, complete with audience participation. Defying Gravity was turned into Defying Subtlety, sung with gusto by Henderson in a tight green skin suit. One of my favourites was the Cameron MacIntosh parody My Souvenir Things.
Les Miserables songs were featured prominently – to much acclaim. There was laughter aplenty (and a few knowing nods) as Bring Him Home became “God, its high . . . this song’s too high . . . pity me, change the key.” The revolving stage created by the performers during the Les Miserables songs was a particularly inspired moment – in fact, the whole segment was a highlight.
McSweeney on the piano was solid, crisp and kept the show moving along at just the right pace. The second act wasn’t quite as fast as the first, in part due to the constant costume changes behind the scenes by all performers. The costume repertoire was impressive – each song had the performers in a new outfit and wig.
One of my previous bugbears at this venue is often the sound quality. Not so this show – it was brilliant work by the two technicians from His Majesty's. The sound quality and mix was one of the best I've heard Downstairs at the Maj.
The four performers haven’t worked together before, so I was impressed with the tightness of the ensemble and their beautiful harmonies. Individually they were fantastic, together they were terrific.
In the parody about Rent, the cast ask “How do you measure the worth of a show?” And respond with “How about hype? / Layers of hype! / Forget about love! It's a season of hype / Seasons of hype!”
Well, believe this hype – Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits #1 is a fantastic show.
Perth Theatre Trust presents
by Gerard Alessandrini
Director Andrew Dobosz
Venue: His Majesty's Theatre, Perth
Dates: 22 – 24 August, 2013
Tickets: $33.00 - $53.00