If it is true that parody works best when its audience is familiar with the material being parodied, the more you know about the Broadway musical and the season just passed, the happier you’ll be with the latest edition, the twelfth, of Forbidden Broadway. The less you know about the Broadway theater, the less likely you will be to get most of the jokes and even the less likely to care. Forbidden Broadway: Comes Out Swinging! now available on CD from DRG Records certainly has comic moments that don’t depend on prior knowledge, but they are few and far between. Clearly, the show and the album are aimed at the Broadway maven. If the name Jason Robert Brown doesn’t mean anything to you, you are not the audience for this album. That’s not to say that if you are acquainted with Jason Robert Brown you are necessarily going to love the show and find it funny, but at least you’ll have a shot.
What the show has going for it is an impressive cast of four talented singer/comedians who know how to sell the material, and have the chops to get the job done. Their impressions are spot on: Carter Calvert as Jessie Mueller playing Carole King, Scott Richard Foster as Frankie Valli, Marcus Stevens as Mandy Patinkin, Mia Gentile as Teresa Brewer. Their comic timing is impeccable. Hey are engaging performers, together, they make the most of the material they’re given.
Highlights include Mia Gentile’s powerful send up of Idina Menzel, “Let it Blow” with the obligatory shout out to John Travolta and her Audra MacDonald to Carter Calvert’s Carrie Underwood in a send up of the NBC production of The Sound of Music. And that’s a good thing, since both are parodies that would be familiar to a much wider audience. Most people would get the joke, certainly more than got the point in the number about Pippin. The ensemble work on juke box musicals and the revivals of Les Miserables and Cabaret, also more familiar, was effective. The general critique of the formulaic Disney musicals that have become a Broadway staple is a point well made. Less effective was the material on unsuccessful shows that quickly closed—Rocky, Bullets Over Broadway, and The Bridges of Madison County.
Forbidden Broadway: Comes Out Swinging is a must for the cognoscenti. For the rest of us, especially in the light of the charismatic performances, it may turn us on to what we’ve been missing.