Forbidden Broadway

It’s perhaps surprising that Forbidden Broadway (or at least a derivative of it) has never found a more permanent home in London. The glimpses we have had of the legendary revue show have been fleeting – a month-long run at the Albery ten years ago (produced by David Babani, who now brings it to the Chocolate Factory) and a brief stint at the Fortune ten years prior to that. Add to this the fact it recently ended its 27-year run in New York, and suffice to say you should probably see it while you have the chance.

The material is a combination of old favourites (the “Bring it Down” skit of Les Miserables is timeless) and new additions, including a brilliant pastiche of the Chocolate Factory’s recent pared-down revival of A Little Night Music, in which a giant Hannah Waddingham pleads “Send in the Crowds”.  

Not everything hits its mark – the Andrew Lloyd Webber skit is not a patch on the Sondheim one which follows – but the majority are sharply observed and superbly executed. Very few of the current West End crop escape ‘pun’ishment, though one striking omission is We Will Rock You (perhaps because it’s never transferred to Broadway or maybe it’s just too easy a target).

The parodying is broad and generally merciless, with Billy Elliot (or ‘Silly Idiot’) and Jersey Boys (“Walk like a man/Sing like a girl”) among the shows going through the wringer. Others get off relatively lightly – Priscilla and Mamma Mia! only get the briefest of mentions – but wider comments on overuse of projection and proliferation of puppetry certainly hit home. 

The cast of four are excellent, with Steven Kyman‘s baby-faced buffoonery and Anna-Jane Casey‘s pitch-perfect impersonations of the likes of Idina Menzel (“Defying Subtlety”) combining well with the splendidly lugubrious Alasdair Harvey and the cheeky charm of Sophie Louise-Dann.

Occasionally the lyrics get lost in the sound system, and it goes without saying that a prior knowledge of the shows in the stocks is a distinct advantage, but director Phillip George moves it all along at a lick and ensures that, if this is to the be the swansong of Gerard Alessandrini‘s masterful creation, it’s going out on a high.