IF YOU GO
What: Musical revue that pokes fun at Broadway's biggest hits
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday & Saturday in Daniels Pavilion
Where: 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
Information: 800-597-1900 or thephil.org
On the Web: More information, plus audio clips from the show online at forbiddenbroadway.com
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
NAPLES — There's nothing all that "forbidden" about "Forbidden Broadway," playing through Sunday at the Naples Philharmonic's Daniels Pavilion. There's a few saucy lines like "Avenue Q"-inspired "If you want a Tony/flash a cloth cojone," but most of the jokes fall well within the Neapolitan comfort zone. Wednesday's audience howled like banshees.
Gerard Alessandrini's satirical look at musical theater opened Off-Broadway in 1982, eventually running for 2,332 performances. The show, with just four performers, a pianist and no set, has been revised more than a dozen times since then to continually mock the successes (and excesses) of the Great White Way.
The show pounds out a series of parodies that stretch from a 40-year-old "Annie" stopping mid-trill of "Tomorrow" to puff on a cigarette to the off-tune warbling of "The Phantom of the Opera." Don Quixote belts "The Impossible Song" from "Man of La Mancha" - (“To sing, the impossible song. To clear, my unclearable throat.”)
Past versions of "Forbidden Broadway" saved some barbs for the personalities of yore, like Carol Channing (forever reviving "Hello, Dolly!") and Chita Rivera, but the latest show sharpens its axe for the Disneyfication and dumbing-down of Broadway. Jukebox musical, revues, "The Lion King" and more fall under the show's scorching gaze.
Two "Mary Poppins"-inspired pieces (perhaps the best of the lot) bring roars from the crowd. There's a twist on the signature tune - “Stupid Careless Fictional Nonsensical Verboseness” - and “Feed The Burbs,” sung to the tune of “Feed The Birds.” “Early each day down at T-K-T-S, the crowds from Connecticut come. They prefer a smart play, but they all acquiesce, and instead they attend something dumb.”
Recent Neapolitan offender "Mamma Mia!" gets a send-up with actresses garbed in the show's signature spandex costumes. Tongue-in-cheek lyrics celebrate just how "good" the show seems compared to what's on Broadway now - even if it isn't.
A "Lion King" number, "The Circle of Mice," comes complete complete with cash register sound effects. A companion piece pokes fun at director Julie Taymor's puppetry - and the strain it puts on the actors beneath the unwieldy costumes. In the Taymor vein, the current production pre-dates the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" fiasco, although the show mentions it briefly.
While the show whips through most of the modern catalog, including "Wicked," "Jersey Boys" and "Hairspray" in 90 minutes, there are clunkers. Speed proves the key in keeping the show entertaining - and even at bite-size, some of the numbers go on too long.
The worst of these, a messy mashup of Rodgers, Hammerstein and John Lennon, segues (badly) from "Oklahoma!" to "Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles" in an unsubtle jab at jukebox musicals. While I decry the scourge that is the jukebox musical - the unfunny rendering of "Imagine" sung by a screechy Yoko Ono goes on far too long.
While it does help if you're moderately familiar with recent musical theater - there's plenty to laugh at elsewhere. Most of the show soars like the Wicked Witch of the West in "Defying Subtlety." And fear not - if you don't know who Cameron Mackintosh is, you'll still cackle as the shameless Brit shills “My Souvenir Things” to the tune of “My Favorite Things.”
Frustratingly, while the program identifies the performers (with lengthy professional biographies), it fails to list the individual numbers or which actor or actors performs each piece. The show stars: Valerie Fagan, Jeanne Montano, Eric Gutman and William Selby with Catherine Stornetta accompanying the quartet on the piano.
"At the end of the play we're another year older." Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.