Playwright: book, music and lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini. At: Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted. Phone: 312-988-9000; $40-$55. Runs through: Nov. 2. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Though one target of Gerard Alessandrini's satire in this latest edition of his long-running revue is the proliferation of 'brand-name' midtown shows, the Forbidden Broadway title, for 25 years ( and counting ) , has represented the cream of musical theatre parody. Fast and fearless, the Dancing With The Stars FoBro is 90 minutes of sheer irreverent, exhilarating, take-no-prisoners glee concluding with a sucker-punching reminder of why we love that Great White Way, warts and all.
After the introductory song, we proceed straight to a diatribe on self-proclaimed theater fans who prefer backstage gossip to the actual experience of seeing a play ( All That Chat ) —a theme later reprised as a bored Eponine, concealed by the huge Les Miz barricade, swaps progress reports with colleagues ( On My Phone ) . The Disney empire also makes an easy target: The star of The Little Mermaid laments making her B-Way debut in a role rendering legs unnecessary, Lion King cast members groan under the weight of their 40-pound masks and a cheery Mary Poppins warbles 'Stupid careless fictional nonsensical verbocious/So damn cute you choke on all the sappy sweet glucoseness.'
The indie musicals don't escape the lampoons, however: Latinos in In The Heights sprinkle barriospeak with Yiddish to accommodate their post-Tony audience demographic. Non-musical attractions take their hits, too—literally, in the case of Chicago's own August: Osage County, represented by a boxing match between mother Violet and daughter Barbara. ( 'I'm in charge here!' trumpets the latter, prompting the referee to declare, 'That's a great curtain line!'. ) And a shy Dan Radcliffe does a nervous striptease to Let Me/Enter Naked, assisted by his faithful wire-sculpture pony.
It should go without saying that replicating the signature styles of so many and so varied a roster places demands on the performers far beyond those of their source personalities ( a rabbit-toothed Sarah Brightman, for example, or an ultra-histrionic Mandy Patinkin ) . But Leisa Mather, Kevin B. McGlynn, Valerie Fagan and Mark David Kaplan sprint through their agenda with nary a missed note or step. Even when the jokes are a bit mossy ( 'Walk like a man/Sing like a girl' has been around since the original song hit the airwaves ) , the dazzling delivery makes repeated viewings advisable. As swiftly as these lyrics zip by us, we want to hear them again.