Buffalo may be where “ lost shows” go to die, but the place to go for a new show guaranteeing hearty laughter is the Triad, where creator-writer-director Gerard Alessandrini’s latest version of “Forbidden Broadway—The Next Generation” is installed. The number about the lost shows graveyard is but one of the satirical thrusts that keep the laughs coming.
As has always been the case with the ultra-clever Alessandrini, in targeting Broadway productions he manages to find great versatile performers who can slip into a assortment of characters convincingly as they dispense musical mayhem. The aggregation at the performance I saw consisted of Chris Collins-Pisano, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Jenny Lee Stern and 12-year-old wunderkind Joshua Turchin.
All get chances to stand out, and I found an array of favorite numbers. One is the spoof of finding a new way to do “Fiddler on the Roof”—in Yiddish. Substituting for the famous song “Tradition” is “Translation,” hilariously performed by Collins-Pisano, Houston and Stern, in addition to an especially hilarious “Brush Up Your Yiddish,” performed by duo Collins-Pisano and Houston. Tossed in are some especially funny Yiddish expressions.
There is a lavish spoof of the garish musical “Moulin Rouge,” with tall, visiaully impressive and elegantly-dressed Mayagoitia singing about having diamonds “up the wazoo” in a production number tagged “Moulin Rude.”
The play “The Ferryman” comes in for intense ribbing, as does the musical “Hadestown.” Turchin, who at his tender age has amassed a huge load of all sorts of acting and musical credits shines in the number “Evan Has-Been,” as well as amusingly taking part in other selections.
Not everything rises to the same quality. The riff on “Harry Potter” could use an infusion of some magic. But then Houston and Collins-Pisano are very funny cavorting as Billy Porter and Lin-Manuel, and Stern and Collins-Pisano broadly spoof Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse.
Stern gets her big moment when the show reaches into the world of film and, playing Judy Garland, she lacerates Renee Zellweger’s portrayal, proclaiming repeatedly that Zellweger “smells in my part.” Stern gives a rousing imitation of Garland’s mighty voice.
Alessandrini was always clever at mixing Broadway shows and characters with one style blended with another, on evidence again with “It’s Got To Be A Musical,” combining “Beetlejuice," “Tootsie” and “Frozen.”
I can’t stress enough what a hilarious performer Immanuel Houston is. His “Jeremy Pope in “Ain’t Too Proud” is a gem, and he stands out in so many of the group numbers as well.
One of the shows I thoroughly disliked last season was the revisionist “Oklahoma!,” which makes me particularly enjoy Alessandrini’s take, “Woke-lahoma!,” with its “Oh What a Miserable Mornin” and also lyrics like “gives you a chill as we crucify Agnes de Mille.” There is a drenched-in-blood finale that comments comically on the terrible revised ending to the revival.
No review of “Forbidden Broadway” would be complete without giving credit to costume designer Dustin Cross and wig designer Conor Donnelly. The amazing costumes and wigs that the cast members rapidly change play a major role in creating convincing character delineation. I still have a vision, for example, of Mayagoitia looking a dead-ringer for Bernadette Peters. Plaudits too for choreographer Gerry McIntyre—the show itself was produced in association with McIntyre-- and for musical director Fred Barton, who at the piano deftly handles the vast selection of musical styles. At the Triad, 158 West 72nd Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed November 7, 2019.