Musical comedy by Gerard Alessandrini. All of the West End and Broadway's biggest shows, brightest stars and notorious flops panned, poked, lampooned and lambasted by a dazzling cast of comic chameleons. All set to the tunes of your favourite show-stoppers, and all under one roof!
Written and conceived by Gerard Alessandrini with additional material by Phillip George.
Gerard Alessandrini says about Forbidden Broadway: "The trick is to mock them with love. I'm an actor myself and I would never make fun of a show that's about to close after a short run. Firstly it's unfair, and secondly half my audience won't have heard of it anyway. So I go for the shows that are selling out: Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Starlight. Even if people haven't seen those they still know them from the records and posters and coffee mugs. Some of our numbers may be a little too American, like a song about David Mamet rehearsing Madonna in Speed-the-Plow which begins, 'I strain in vain to find her brain', but I'm writing some new English material around the Royal Shakespeare Company and Roger Moore going back to the stage which I hope will make some kind of local sense. Altogether, over the eight years we've been in New York and on the road round America, I must have written about 200 parodies, setting new lyrics to familiar songs, except in one or two uses such as Irving Berlin and Lloyd Webber, who won't let us use their music, so there we have to settle for a kind of pastiche. But most people seem kind of happy to be spoofed by us: Hal Prince, the director, is one of our constant targets, and he comes by every year on his birthday to see what we're doing about him now. Some of the numbers date very fast and there's no point in going on with the Amadeus parody five years after the show closed, but luckily there have been enough new shows from London to keep Broadway just about alive. You have to hit the big targets, and then you have to try and make the parody lyrics live up to the originals wherever possible. That's when you realize how brilliant a show Les Miserables or Phantom really is."
Forbidden Broadway Original London West End Production 1989
Previewed 22 February 1989, Opened 2 March 1989, Closed 20 May 1989 at the Fortune Theatre
The West End premiere of Gerald Alessandrini's satirical musical revue Forbidden Broadway in a special West End edition. The cast features Rosemary Ashe, Jenny Michelmore, Simon Slater and Michael Fenton Stevens, joined by Paul Knight on the piano. Directed and choreographed by Phillip George.
"Mostly the shows Gerard Alessandrini pastiches are those we have in common, padded out with liberal - too liberal - quantities of tart tribute to the dead or very old... The format is monotonous... That said, the show boosts a handful of numbers where a witty idea fuses with a cheeky rhyme. One such item brings on a mournful Stephen Sondheim for 'send in the crowds', a Little Night Music parody - 'though I keep writing scores with my usual flair, after act one no one is there.' The Les Miserables skit is also precise, mocking its over populated revolve, pervading gloom and incomprehensible plot with gleeful efficiency." The Times
"This is the show that renders The Phantom Of The Opera redundant. See its parody here, which strips away the hype to reveal the essentials, and you need never bother with the real thing. The West End version of this cynical musical spoof from New York lampoons the original Phantom stars mercilessly... All this and many other references to major theatrical names like Carol Channing and impresario Cameron Mackintosh amount to nothing more than a show business in-joke that is pretty unsubtle... But the cast members are genuinely funny and appealing in their own right, trilling away like grown-up Ovaltinies as they puncture some of the world's greatest egos in this irreverent revue." The Daily Express
"This revue parodies high C musicals where 'there's nothing that's formal, nothing you'd want to underwrite'. A lightning series of sketches sets out to give the stars a thumping: 'What matters is who they are/ not how brand new they are.' Kiss Me Kiri Te Kanawa sings how she's turned trash into art. Liza One Note Minnelli lets it all hang out and Julie Andrews explains why Maria is now a lesbian. The star of Hello Dolly sings 'Don't be annoyed fellers! I'm keeping you employed fellers' and Roger Moore shoots Andrew Lloyd Webber's cat to the tune of Goldfinger while excusing his new role in Aspects Of Love. It's the kind of show where you don't want to laugh too hard in case you miss a line but its parody from the inside." The Guardian
Forbidden Broadway in London at the Fortune Theatre previewed from 22 February 1989, opened on 2 March 1989 and closed on 20 May 1989.
Forbidden Broadway 1st London West End Revival 1999
Previewed 29 July 1999, Opened 3 August 1999, Closed 5 September 1999 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)
A major revival of Gerard Alessandrini's musical spoof revue Forbidden Broadway in London is an especially updated West End version! This production transfers to London's West End following a hugely successful extended two month season at the Jermyn Street Theatre.
The cast features Christine Pedi, who comes direct from the New York production. Joining her are Sophie-Louise Dann, Mark O'Malley and Alistair Robins with Paul Knight on the piano. Directed and choreographed by Phillip George with sets by Nigel Hook, costumes by Alvin Colt, lighting by David Howe and sound by Simon Whitehorn and Gareth Fry.
"This is the English edition of the famous Broadway revue by Gerard Alessandrini, spoofing famous Broadway stars and musicals, which first opened 17 years ago, and is still running after 12 updates; and what it needs to be as good as it thinks it is, is a director who staged one of the great musicals it parodies. As it is, some of it sparkles with designer malice and some of it is amateurish beyond belief... This is a very 'in' kind of show: if you don't know your musicals and their stars you'll be feeling pretty lonely; if you do you will realise, as you watch the giants being sent up, just how great the artistry and the expertise really are at the summit of show business. You gaze up and the stars look down. Ah well: as somebody says on stage, there are worse shows to be in." The Sunday Times
"It's a winning formula: a series of spot-on spoofs of musicals interspersed with wicked impersonations of grande dames... The whirlwind tour is a must for love-haters of the genre, with plenty of in-jokes for the initiated. Even those who have steered clear of the blockbusting box offices will have their aversions confirmed as 'Cameron Mackintosh' sings 'These are a Few of My Souvenir Things' while producing logo-plastered trinkets from a cape. A Cats audition piece, a hilarious mini-Les Mis, complete with a pretend revolving stage, a sing-along-Sondheim-if-you-can tongue-twister, and a couple of Disney diatribes are tackled by the four talented performers and, as with all pastiches, there's genuine affection for the tradition which they mock." The Independent on Sunday
"Gerard Alessandrini's long-running success in New York and elsewhere sends up something rotten such icons as Andrew Lloyd Webber and even dares to suggest that the great Les Miserables is beyond its sell by date. It's all done very tongue-in-cheek and those who, like me, find such parodies as 'Be Depressed' (Disneys Beauty and The Beast's 'Be Our Guest') funny rather than sacrilegious will love Phillip George's short but perfectly formed production... Presented by a talented quartet, it's a little revue with big ideas and a giant sense of humour... and Alessandrini's often insulting lyrics to some glittering Broadway melodies are priceless... It may irritate a lot of luvvies, but this stiletto of a show is great fun." The News of the World
Forbidden Broadway in London at the Albery Theatre previewed from 29 July 1999, opened on 3 August 1999 and closed on 5 September 1999.
Forbidden Broadway 2nd London West End Revival 2014
Previewed 9 September 2014, Opened 15 September 2014, Closed 22 November 2014 at the Vaudeville Theatre
It's back! The funniest show in town, spoofing all the great and not so great shows - Forbidden Broadway in London's West End for a strictly limited 11 week season, direct from a sell-out summer season at the Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre in south-east London.
The cast features Christina Bianco with Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis. Directed and choreographed by Phillip George with designs by Morgan Large, lighting by Nick Richings and sound by Gareth Owen.
When this production originally opened at the Menier Chocolate Factory in July 2014, Sam Marlowe in the Times exhorted: "Musical theatre buffs, rejoice! It's time once again to indulge in the mischievous, dig-in-the-ribs send-up that is this seasoned revue spoofing the best, and worst, of the West End and the Great White Way," adding that it was "still terrific fun" and is "served up with charm in Phillip George's irresistible production... a clever pleasure." Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph commented that "since 1981, Gerard Alessandrini's revue has been vigorously biting the musical hand that feeds it with parodies of the great warhorses of musical theatre so sharp that they bring tears to the eyes," noting that "the sparkling quartet whizz through innumerable changes while singing and dancing fit to bust" with "highlights too numerous to mention... even if you had somehow missed every one of the shows satirised by Forbidden Broadway, you would still find yourself weeping with laughter at its precision-engineered ridicule." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail thought that "even if this parody never really sinks its teeth into its preening victims, it's slickly produced - and tremendous fun."
When this production transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End in September 2014, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard wrote: "With the autumn nights drawing gloomily in, we're in need of a pick-up, and what better to provide it than this glorious spoof of shows and show tunes?... Phillip George's fizzy production boasts a superlative four-strong cast who whizz on and off stage for fresh costumes in the manner of the most skilful quick-change artists." Simon Edge in the Daily Express said that "the belting performances are a joy and and its most mischievous points this devastating critique of the genre by those who love it most is pure, bitchy bliss." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said that while "it is admirably salty, making pointed gags about megashows such as Les Miserables, The Lion King, and that horrible creation The Book Of Mormon... you do need to be quite a stage addict to pick up many of the jokes."
"A New York mainstay for more than 30 years, Gerard Alessandrini's affectionately barbed skewering of Broadway and the West End has become something of a London perennial, too, and this staging may herald the satiric revue's most delicious go-round yet... One or two sketches don't land, but the director Phillip George's ensemble of four impress throughout, not least Damian Humbley as a Jean Valjean at comic odds with the Les Miserables score. Showbiz non-initiates may chafe, but everyone else should have a ball. And if you don't get the Chita/Rita references, what are you doing here to begin with?" The Sunday Times
"This blissful parody of the blockbuster musical, devised by Gerard Alessandrini, has been around in New York since 1981. It's here in a new version with a superb quartet of performers and pianist who leave no turn unstoned... Phantom is an easy target but the hit is still very funny, and the falsetto-ing in Jersey Boys ('Walk like a man, sing like a girl!') is utter joy. The spirit of the thing is both affectionate and delightfully malicious. Any longer and I'd have died laughing." The Mail on Sunday
"Despite the title, the new edition has been tailor-made for London, although, with many of the same shows on both sides of the Atlantic, the targets are often the same. Twitter, ticket touts, child actors, the overamplified Miss Saigon and underdeveloped Once, Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera Mucus Of The Night and Sondheim's Into The Words, are all blasted with deadly accuracy... The key to the show's success is that its cast are every bit as talented as the performers they lampoon." The Express on Sunday
Forbidden Broadway in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 9 September 2014, opened on 15 September 2014 and closes on 22 November 2014.