THEATRE REVIEW: Forbidden Broadway, Vaudeville Theatre

runs until 22 November

Forbidden Broadway
Forbidden Broadway at the Vaudeville Theatre

After more than 30 years of both lovingly and wickedly ripping into Broadway’s biggest names and glitziest shows, Forbidden Broadway has arrived in the West End to turn its hand to the bright lights of London. From Cats to A Chorus Line, from ‘Les Miséra-bleurgh’ to The Book Of ‘Morons’, the hilarious writing of Gerard Alessandrini has the audience rolling in the aisles with his take on the London theatre scene.

This is certainly a show for musical theatre nerds – if you don’t know your Sondheim from your Schwartz, you’re going to struggle to keep up with the mockeries that fly thick and fast from the cast of four. The production is snappy, whipping along at speed from one target to another with rapid costume changes to match. There’s barely a show that escapes Forbidden Broadway‘s combination of sharp wit and physical comedy, making it difficult to pick out the highlights. For me, the funniest skits are the ones that play with the shows I love the most: the extended take on Les Mis therefore had me in hysterics, with Damien Humbley’s ‘God It’s High’ and a running joke about the overuse of its rotating stage bringing tears of laughter. Elsewhere MatildaBilly Elliot and Les Misérables (clearly a favourite, that one…) come together in a hilarious number about ‘Exploited [to the tune of ‘Revolting’] Children’; it’s probably working in a performing arts college that partly makes the line “My Mummy says I’m a triple threat” so brilliantly funny to me. “You are not triple threats, you are vermin. Vermin with Oliviers.”, the Matthew Warchus-Miss Trunchbull mash-up barks.

And it’s not just the shows that get the FB treatment. Individual performers – and even producers, in the case of a certain Mr Mackintosh – are lampooned, often in a medley of hits. Particularly enjoyable is Ben Lewis’s rendering of Aussie favourite Hugh Jackman, with numbers from Les Mis and Oklahoma equally as dazzlingly comic as his sequinned red shirt. In these sections, it’s a little harder for audience members who are not familiar with those performers: I can still appreciate the laughter in the Once and The Book of Mormon sketches without having seen the shows, but I struggled to see the humour in the representation of Mandy Patinkin without recognising his apparently melodramatic vocals. Christina Bianco, known for her diva impressions, shines here with a side-splittingly accurate portrayal of Kristin Chenoweth and a wonderful Bernadette Peters who is struggling to cope with eight shows a weeks (‘See Me On a Monday’).

This is certainly a show for musical theatre nerds – if you don’t know your Sondheim from your Schwartz, you’re going to struggle to keep up

Of course, what makes the show work so well is the cast of four are all impressively talented performers themselves; they know the industry, they love it and they therefore mock it better than anyone can. They all show off powerful vocals, panache and a hint of silliness (I loved Anna-Jane Casey all the more for her on-stage fit of giggles) that enable them to send up the world of musical theatre with style. For those who live and breathe musicals, this an unstoppably funny show that is not to be missed.

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