It’s been thirty years now since New York City audiences first got treated to Forbidden Broadway, a series of revues spoofing The Great White Way’s latest hits (and flops).

Since 1982, a revolving quartet of supertalented performers backed by a piano—and the master-satirist that is writer/creator Gerard Alessandrini—have lampooned Broadway legends like Carol Channing, Ethel Merman, and Mandy Patinkin, current hit shows like Wicked and Mary Poppins, and musical theater classics from Evita to Annie to Cats.

 Coming up with a new revue every two or three years, Alessandrini and company have created their own special franchise, one which returns to Long Beach’s Musical Theatre West three years after Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume One. This time it’s Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume 2, and if Sunday’s matinee audience is any indication, even those without an encyclopedic knowledge of the Broadway musical oeuvre are in for a rollicking good time.

Once again directed and staged by William Selby, whose history with Forbidden Broadway dates to way back when, this second “Best Of” compilation reunites from Volume One the ever amazing David Engel and Larry Raben alongside Forbidden Broadway original cast star Susanne Blakeslee, the trio joined in Volume 2 by another F.B. vet, Valerie Fagan, with musical director Matthew Smedal accompanying the fab four on the onstage grand piano. Not surprisingly, a team as talented as this foursome guarantees another evening of musical spoofery sure to entertain Broadway buffs as well as audience members who see only a handful of shows a year.

 Raben opens the proceedings garbed as Pseudolus (from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum), promising “something for everyone, A Parody Tonight,” and returns as (among others) Ricky Martin, Stephen Sondheim, and the King Of Siam from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I.

 Engel delights as a vocally challenged Michael Crawford in Phantom Of The Opera, a memory-challenged Robert Goulet, and a masculinity challenged Albin from La Cage Aux Folles, belting out a deliciously hammy “I Ham What I Ham.”

 With Ethel Merman making several appearances in Volume 2, it was a savvy decision by MTW to bring Fagan on board. The Merman interpreter extraordinaire challenges a heavily miked Michael Crawford to a vocal duet (with the Broadway legend a sure bet to vanquish Broadway’s Phantom), then leads the gang in a rousing rendition of “There’s No Broadway Like My Broadway.”

  Finally, there’s vocal impersonator par excellence Blakeslee, whose performances as Julie Andrews (in Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp mode), Judy Garland, Carol Channing, and Barbra Streisand are so spot-on, with eyes closed you might swear you’re listening to the real thing.  (Heck, you might even swear that with eyes open!)

 Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume 2 steers clear of the most recent Broadway smashes, sticking mostly to 20th Century classics, though you will find MTW’s upcoming Spamalot spoofed along with the current Broadway revival of Evita, starring Ricky Martin as Che. (Blakeslee, as Eva Peron, sings “Don’t Cry For Me, Ricky Martin, the truth is, I never liked you,” while Raben as Ricky responds with “Living The Vida Loca,” retitled “Living Evita Loca.”)

 Other Volume 2 highlights include Fagan as an aging Annie (“I’m thirty years old, tomorrow!), as a beaver-toothed ex-Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber, aka Sarah Brightman, and as Chita Rivera, who declares her supremacy over Blakeslee’s Rita Moreno in a hilarious catfight of a duet sung to the tune of West Side Story’s “America.”

 A Chorus Line’s “I Hope I Get It” gets sung by a chorus line of Cats (from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical), Aspects Of Love’s “Love Changes Everything” becomes a racier “I Sleep With Everyone,” and Wicked’s “Defying Gravity” becomes “Defying Subtlety.”

There’s a hilarious bit which revolves around Les Miz’s famous turntable set, the cast of Rent join voices in “Seasons Of Hype,” and The Sound Of Music, Part Two has the Trapp family living in Vermont, still wearing lederhosen, and pursued by a grown-up Nazi Rolf.

Musical director Smedal, impeccable at the keyboard, even gets his own vocal solo, one in which he acquits himself quite splendidly.

As he did in Volume One, scenic & lighting/technical director Kevin Clowes transfers an intimate “supper club” show to the huge Carpenter Center stage—quite successfully I must say (though as I mentioned when reviewing Volume One, it does help to be seated close to the stage in the cavernous Carpenter). Scott Steidnger scores high marks for his sound design, as do costume designer Alvin Colt, wardrobe coordinator Monique Ayala, and wig designer Anthony Gagliardi for giving the cast a record number of costume and wig changes, each and every one of them a spot-on recreation of the original, with a few tweaks for comedic effect. (The cans of Spam which adorn Engel’s Spamalot armor are a special treat.) Justin “Squigs” Robertson’s wonderful Al Hirshfeldesque caricatures once again surround the proscenium with images of the Broadway legends being spoofed.

John Calder III is stage manager and Mary Ritenhour production manager and assistant stage manager. Paul Garman is executive director/producer and Steven Glaudini is artistic director.

I ended my review of Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume One thusly: L.A. musical theater fans are hereby forbidden to miss Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume One. You’ll have the greatest time!

I can say the same thing too about Volume 2!

Musical Theatre West, Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach.

–Steven Stanley
April 15, 2012
Photos: Ken Jacques

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