Beyond parody

‘Forbidden Broadway’ celebrates its 40th year of skewering the stage with a few new numbers and a lot of classic hits

Courtesy: Forbidden Broadway

Alert the Broadway divas. The touring production of Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! is back in Denver with a new era of blockbuster productions to lovingly poke fun at. The musical revue is currently playing at the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through Jan. 1. 

Forbidden Broadway first began parodying musicals back in 1982 at Palsson’s Supper Club in New York City, where it ran for more than 2,000 performances. The show created by Gerard Alessandrini was a four-person musical revue that roasted the best (and worst) of musical theater. It was a smashing success, touring all over the world and winning numerous awards (including a Special Tony and Drama Desk Award). 

The play mostly sticks to big commercial shows, so apologies to the fans of more obscure musicals, but you’ll have to get your fix elsewhere. This lighthearted, two-act revue parodies more than 30 Broadway productions with over-the-top impressions, ridiculous costume changes and biting lyrics that poke fun at the shallowness of the fickle theater business. 

Alessandrini updates the show frequently to include parodies of Broadway’s newest additions. This means no one is safe from the group’s musical ribbings as they tackle songs from recent hits like Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton and Frozen, as well as classics like Cats, Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera. And, while not every musical number works — like the confusing parody of Bernadette Peters as a coughing hack, or The Prom-inspired parody about the closing number in teen musicals — more are funny than not. 

Forbidden Broadway’s success is largely attributable to the four actors’ commitment and comedic instincts. The touring cast consists of Chris Collins-Pisano, Gina Kreiezmar, Kevin B. McGlynn and Katheryne Penny, who sing their hearts out, along with Catherine Stornetta, the show’s pianist and the group’s music director. It is a true ensemble piece, and every actor is given a moment to shine. 

Though a few new numbers have been added to the show, many of the group’s well-known parodies have not changed. They still include their Stephen Sondheim send-up “Into the Words,” a Bob Fosse tribute called “Saucy Fosse,” their Fiddler on the Roof parody about actors in New York called “Ambition,” and many more of the group’s seminal numbers. 

Aside from the very funny Frozen parody of “Let it Go” called “Overblown,” the script’s newer additions are a little lackluster. Unfortunately, these newer songs attempt to mine the same material as the show’s other parodies; there are just only so many times that a joke about Broadway being dead and lazily written will be funny. 

If you’ve recently seen a previous version of the show and are on the fence about attending, you’ll probably want to stay home. The updated script doesn’t include enough new material to justify a repeat visit. But if you are a big fan of musical theater who has never seen Forbidden Broadway, or you haven’t caught the show in years, the high-octane energy from the cast and the group’s classic parodies are definitely worth seeing live at least once.

ON STAGE: Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation! by Gerard Alessandrini. Various times through Jan. 1, The Garner Galleria Theatre, 1101 13th St., Denver.

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