Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits, Volume 1

Presented by Marie Clark Musical Theatre
Reviewed Friday 5th October 2012

Gerard Alessandrini wrote the original show in 1982 and, as new musicals appear that he feels are worthy of lampooning, he has regularly updated it, so that it is now at version fifteen. It not only takes aim at shows, but also targets particular artists and writers. It now has something of a cult following. This production pulls together highlights from the thirty years of productions. The various scripts, which were written to point out the extravagance of modern musical theatre productions, were intended for a cast of four, with only a piano on stage as accompaniment, no sets nor costumes, the complete antithesis of those musicals that it criticised.

Later productions have used costumes and so the cast of four no longer works as time is needed for costume changes, therefore a larger cast is employed. This production follows that format, with a fully costumed cast of twelve, six male and six female, but the set is simple and the piano is still the only accompaniment.

Director and Musical Director, Ben Saunders, and Choreographer, Rachel Dow, have put together a very strong cast and drilled them thoroughly to present a production that is one long laugh from beginning to end. This is, in part, due to the hilarious new words added to the familiar show tunes, but it also relies on a very skilled and talented group of performers, which this show definitely has.

Opening with the title tune, performed by the entire cast, the first show in the firing line was Chicago. David Salter performed a genuine, and very funny ventriloquist act, with Claire McEvoy as his dummy, on Both Reached for the Gun, and then we came to the first comical deconstruction exercise of the evening as Amy Hutchinson, Salter, Ron Abelita, Shay Aitken and Omar Nagesh analysed the choreographic techniques of Bob Fosse in Glossy Fosse, covering all of his best moves, from ‘jazz hands’ to bowler hats. Sides were already giving hints of aching, and we had hardly started.

Mel George, who was responsible for the highly acclaimed Marie Clark production of a chorus line, probably got more laughs out of that last number than anybody, as she waited in the wings to appear next as the lead character from Annie. This particular Annie, however, had played the role, we will not say how many, years ago, and was still waiting for the call to play the role again. Wearing the little red dress, and the big red wig, she sings her lament, Tomorrow, to more howls of laughter.

Time for some more deconstruction and Stephen Sondheim was in for a serve of parody as Chris Barritt, Jenny Scarce-Tolley, McEoy and Abelita joined forces on Into The Words, borrowed from Into The Woods. Funny, clever, and including a sing-a-long for the audience, with the words held up on a board, this one had something for everybody.

Carol Channing was next to get a pasting with Heather Crawford giving a very accurate caricature of her singing Call on Carol, with George Bannard and Slater assisting her. Channing almost made a career out of playing Dolly Levi, the matchmaker in Hello, Dolly!, and this section makes much of that, with Dolly is a Girl’s Best Friend and Hello, Dolly!, completing the set.

From West Side Story we see the catty interchange between Chita Rivera, who was first to play the role on Broadway, and Rita Moreno, who was given the role in the film version. This was, naturally, set to the song America. Laura Villani does a terrific job of portraying Chita, who actually appeared in Adelaide at the Cabaret Festival, while Mel George enters into the claws out conversation as Rita with the same high level of energy. Let battle commence. They create a great interchange, and some fine dance moves.

Wicked just had to be on the menu and Amy Hutchinson, with the help of Abelita and Aitken, and plenty of green follow spot, sang about Defying Subtlety, belting out the song with gusto, and drawing plenty of laughs with the physical antics as well as the lyrics.

Mandy Patinkin was also game, and Omkar Nagesh’s rendition of Somewhat Overindulgent, to the tune of Somewhere, Over the Rainbow, pointed out Patinkin’s penchant for investing even the simplest of songs with tidal waves of emotion.

To end the first act, Les Misérables became More Misérables, with eight tunes being turned around and performed by either individuals or by the ensemble. George Bannard’s God, It’s High, was a particular favourite of mine and Claire McEvoy made great fun of Castles on a Cloud.

The second act continued in the same vein and the ribs, that had just about stopped aching during the interval, were back in the danger zone again. The Phantom of the Opera was abused by Ethel Merman for failing to sing properly and relying on microphones to make his whispers audible, then Amy Hutchinson and Claire McEvoy had a shot at the two girls from Mama Mia. Salter and Nagesh turned Rent into Rant with the ensemble joining in for Seasons of Hype.

Then Jenny Scarce-Tolley stopped the show with an absolutely outstanding send up of Liza Minnelli. Scarce-Tolley captured all of the mannerisms, hyperactivity, occasional vagueness, and memory loss and turned it all in to an hilarious caricature that brought the house down.

Spamalot, Cats, and Fiddler on the Roof all came in for a bashing, with Shay Aitken giving voice to the disgruntled serious actor, who ended up playing a cat just for the income.

Jenny Scarce-Tolley was then back again, this time as Barbra Streisand, in another sensational caricature, again catching all of the little quirks and piling one on top of another, the laughs growing with the character.

Hairspray, and the song You Can’t Stop the Camp, gave Hutchinson, Bannard, McEvoy and Abelita and the ensemble a chance to steal a few more laughs followed, coincidentally, with What I did for Laughs from A Chorus Line, appropriately presented by Mel George and the ensemble. The cast then sang Ta-Ta and the audience, still giggling, applauded madly.

There was marvellous work from everybody in the cast and, of course, the resulting success was also due to the work of the production team. This was a terrific evening of musical theatre and lived up to the high standards set by Marie Clark’s A Chorus Line earlier in the year. This has been a very good year for the company. If you are in need of a really good laugh, with great music and exceptional performances, then get a ticket before they sell out.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Marie Clark web site
Forbidden Broadway web site
Marie Clark Facebook event page

Venue: ARTS Theatre, Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 13th October 2012
Duration: 2hrs (incl. interval)
Tickets: $28 to $23
Bookings: Phone Merici in the Box Office on 8251 3926 or e-mail to [email protected] or Marie Clark booking page

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