Forbidden Broadway is a review show in which four actors, armed only with a piano take the audience through a whirlwind tour of theatre, lampooning everything from Les Miserables to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a slick production as the cast move from show to show and costume to elaborate costume. Their voices are all excellent and they perform with gusto, but when you consider they’ve starred in many of the original shows it’s no surprise.
Damian Humbley especially cracked the bigger numbers and his Jean Valjean was uncanny. Ben Lewis did a fantastic Hugh Jackman whilst Anna-Jane Casey was more Liza than Liza. It was Christina Bianco’s Elaine Paige that had me; because instead of attacking her diva status they went for… well, I won’t spoil it because it’s genius.
The show has been well adapted for British audiences; it’s already attacking the revival of Cats and I cheered at a number that slammed a wave of cut-price touring productions hitting the West End (sorry Bill Kenwright). Some stuff is still a little too American, the Bernadette Peters / Tell Me On A Sunday number was clever but Brits just aren’t that familiar with her and don’t associate her with the role.
Forbidden Broadway was strongest when looking at the bigger picture. Whether it was the movie studios taking over with known properties, the rise of super producers like Cameron Mackintosh or even how The Book of Mormon is destroying the pricing system and lowering the tone. Worthy targets indeed.
The best jokes came from the more visual side of theatre; over-complicated set pieces, strange choreography (sorry Once but you did have it coming) or the Les Mis turntable (particular genius). The ones for me that fell flat were ones that mocked the audience for liking the shows, you know, the people that buy the tickets. Yes, Miss Saigon is hardly subtle but I cried like a baby, don’t make me feel stupid. That said, its attack on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was much deserved.
Forbidden Broadway is an undeniably solid show, moving at breakneck speed with a great cast that delivers plenty of laughs. It waned slightly due to a lack of narrative but was lifted by short acts and extended sketches.
However, in a smaller venue, with an audience of die-hard theatre fans the jokes probably work better, but a theatre the size of the Vaudeville is going to have a much broader audience. A Kristen Chenoweth number that specifically referenced her standards just went over a lot of heads and killed the atmosphere.
There are still plenty of laughs to be had so if you want a good night out full of solid comedy then the show’s for you. But brush up on your Broadway before, you will be tested.
Review by Max Sycamore
Show Opened: 9th September 2014
Booking Until: 22nd November 2014
Forbidden Broadway is muscling its way into the dazzling West End. For eleven weeks only, the funniest show in London lands at the Vaudeville Theatre and prepares to unleash its wicked humour on anyone and any show in its sights.
The multi-award-winning show has been an unstoppable force in New York theatre since 1982. It mercilessly, hilariously and with pinpoint accuracy lampoons musical theatre’s current big hits.
This updated London production of the show by its Broadway director Phillip George showcases some of the best productions from both Broadway and the West End, including The Book Of Mormon, Once, Matilda, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Miss Saigon.