Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera, Jersey Boy Frankie Valli, Judy Garland, Mandy Patinkin, Julie Andrews, Michael Crawford, and more. They’re all onstage—or close facsimiles thereof—for the next three nights as the Segerstrom Center For The Arts presents the hilarious, legendary off-Broadway revue Forbidden Broadway.

event_media-banner_lrg Writer/creator Gerard Alessandrini’s formula has been a sure-fire one for the past three-plus decades.

Take a familiar song from a familiar show, say “Tradition” from “Fiddler On The Roof,” re-title it (“Ambition” in this case), and then write lyrics which recall the original’s but with devilish twists: “At ten I was a pretty boy, at seventeen, a dream. I never had a pimple so I do commercials. Complexion!” (In the same way, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” becomes “Stupid Careless Fictional Nonsensical Verboseness.”)

Lampooned theater stars get their own spotlight moments including the one-and-only Liza, Sondheim interpreter extraordinaire Patinkin, and even “Steve” himself.

Shows themselves are no less immune to spoofing than celebs. Les Misérables becomes “Les Misera-blah.” Jersey Boys is ragged for “using narration. Scary, but it saves lots of time.” Julie Taymor’s highly uncomfortable costumes in The Lion King become food for lampooning in “Can You Feel The Pain Tonight.” There’s even a number featuring a trio of puppets from three different shows: Lion King, Little Shop, and Avenue Q in “You Gotta Get A Puppet” to the tune of Gypsy’s “You Gotta Get A Gimmick.”

Among the newer shows getting skewered are Matilda (“We Are Ambitious Children”), The Book Of Mormon (“The Book Of Morons”), and Once (“Once Is Enough”), and though “Let It Blow” takes off from the Hollywood’s (and not Broadway’s) Frozen, considering Disney’s track record, it’s shouldn’t be long before “Adele Dazeem”’s Forbidden Broadway solo becomes an actual Broadway parody.

All of the above is brought to life in SCFTA’s cabaret-seating Samueli Theatre by some gifted Forbidden Broadway vets: Gina Kreiezmar, Kevin B. McGlynn, Trisha Rapier, and Marcus Stevens, each one getting his or her chance to dazzle in solo, duet, trio, or full quartet mode, with who better to direct alongside choreographer Phillip George than Alessandrini himself?

Rapier is a simply sensational Idina Menzel, Sarah Brightman, and Rita Moreno, the latter opposite Kreiezmar’s equally sensacional Chita Rivera in a hilarious catfight of a duet sung to the tune of West Side Story’s “America,” with Kreiezmar getting her own superstar moments as Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins mode, as Liza Minnelli circa now (with some hilarious audience interaction), and as an aging Annie (“I’m thirty years old, tomorrow!”)

As for the male contingent, both McGlynn and Stevens match their female costars every step of the way, with musical director Catherine Stornetta providing expert piano accompaniment throughout.

Dancewise, co-director George’s Fosse-esque choreography in “Glosse Fosse” (to the tune of “Razzle Dazzle”) is a particular standout, with the Act One Les Miz closer another showstopper.

Costume designer Alvin Colt scores high marks for his Lion King-esque costumes and countless more, with Carol Sherry’s many wigs another big design plus. Scenic, lighting, and sound designs are uncredited but razzle-dazzly. Catherine Bloch is stage manager.

Sure to entertain both Broadway buffs and audience members who see only a handful of shows a year, Forbidden Broadway does precisely what it sets out to do, and you don’t have to know the difference between Mandy Patinkin and Battleship Potemkin to have a Forbidden Broadway blast.

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Samueli Theatre, Segerstrom Center For The Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

–Steven Stanley
October 1, 2015

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