“Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging” another riotous Alessandrini production

By Lucy Komisar

Gerard Alessandrini is the best musical theater critic in New York. Incisive, clever, right on the mark. And he does it in the idiom of the productions he critiques!

By now, everybody knows that since 1982, Alessandrini has produced nearly yearly revues that satirize Broadway musicals. He does it with a cast of four performers, different ones through the decades, whose voices are as good or better than most of what you find on Broadway.

Mia Gentile as Michelle Williams, Calvert Carter as Liza Minelli, Scott Richard Foster as Alan Cumming, photo Carol Rosegg.

Scott Richard Foster as “Cabaret” star Alan Cumming, with codpiece and red pasties, is such a good double he could have done the role. This show was a little grungier than in past — this is a revival of Cumming’s last revival, and Foster/Cumming sings:

“Wilkommen, bien venu strangers
Call in the sex police rangers
I‘m Alan Cumming
I‘m on  the attack
My raunchy emcee
Will be coming back.
I come with dirty new dangers
I‘m  déclassé
And so risqué
In Cabaret.”

Mia Gentile is good (better than the original) as she channels the dreadful performance of Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles.

Carter Calvert makes us remember the show-stopper Sally Bowles — Liza Minnelli — in a brilliant number done in Liza’s iconic hair and leggings and body language and singing the plaintive, torch song styled “So What.”

“For the footlights shine
Lighting up the set
And I dance and I sing
To pay off my debt
If the parts are small
And they‘re  not so hot
So who cares
So what?
So who cares
So what?”


Among favorites this time, I loved the spoof of “Bridges of Madison County” – better than the play. Calvert is terrific as Kelli  O‘Hara playing bored housewife Francesca who emigrated from Italy to marry a Midwestern farmer. Life suddenly turns exciting when good-looking photographer Robert (Foster as Steven Pasquale) happens along. But as the lyrics note, there‘s a lot of build-up for a minimal dénouement.

Robert asks, “Do you live here alone?”
Francesca: Goodness, no! I live here with my two children and Sutton Foster‘s brother, what‘s -his-name. They‘re conveniently gone for the next two sex acts…I mean acts.”
Later, when they clinch, Francesca says, “It would be wrong! Don‘t you understand, Robert? We would be committing adultery!”
He replies, “Oh, Francesca, don‘t you know? Adultery is only for ugly people. For attractive people it‘s inevitable true love. So it‘s okay.” Song: Just One Sex Act.

Marcus Stevens as Elder Cunningham and Scott Richard Foster as Elder Price, ie the play’s authors, photo Carol Rosegg.

Marcus Stevens and Foster lampoon Book of Mormon authors Matthew Stone and Trey Parker. Appearing as the play’s main characters, Elder Price (the corporate type) and Elder Cunningham (the idealistic one) they sing:

“We believe…that Broadway should be vulgar, crass and lewd…”
“We believe …That musicals should be disgusting…
“All Broadway musicals should use four letter words.”

We believe… {bleep}…scrotum
We believe… {bleep}…Mitt Romney
We believe… {bleep} {bleep} {bleep}…Jerry Herman
In Book of Mormon|
We teach you how to {bleep}”

What do they really believe?
“In magnificent fame and fortune.”


Making fun of “Once” is like falling off a vacuum cleaner, and Alessandrini cleans up in “Once is enough.” Foster is a ringer for Steve Kazee as the sour-faced guitar-strumming Guy. Mia Gentile, with a heavy guttural Czech accent, is terrific as Cristin Milioti / Girl. She vacuums the stage. Everyone is full of angst. And, they sing, “We‘re so unpretentious that now we‘re pretentious.”

Girl tells Guy: “I should probably tell you that I‘m married with a child before you fall in love with my impish Czechoslovakian charms…but I won‘t until act two, to create drama where there is none.
Guy: “I don‘t want to / But I have to / Be the band as well”
Guy and Girl: “We must play through / Instruments too / Putting us through hell”

Mia Gentile as Annie, Marcus Stevens as Trunchbull, Carter Calvert as Matilda and Scott Richard Foster as Billy Elliot, photo Carol Rosegg.

Stevens excels as Trunchbull, the nasty headmaster in “Matilda” in a bit focusing on musicals about kids — Matilda, Billy Elliot, and Annie –– and the mommies who push them.

There is a clever “Pippin” as a goofy circus act. And a good Stevens playing Andy Kral and Scott as a jerky, punch-drunk Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.” It was, as the cast pointed out, one of the assembly line musicals that included “Bridges,” “Bullets,” “Aladdin” –churn ’em out!

Alessandrini cuts deep into Woody Allen and Susan Stroman, the writer and director of the dreadful slightly tacky non-musical musical, “Bullets Over Broadway.” They sing, “I don‘t know what could have gone wrong. Let‘s misdirect.” And Woody adds, “We have no composers / Composers just get in the way.”

Calvert is an excéllente chanteuse in Les Miz, comically gurgling the last syllables of “Les Misérables.” Remember the projections of the sewers of Paris? Here an overhead projector shows a croissant. She aptly mimics Fran Drescher‘s thick New York accent in “Cinderella.”

I loved the Idina Menzel (Gentile) screaming-style song “Let it Blow,” with the lyrics, “My loud and whiny voice has reinvented sound.”

Jukebox musicals get the treatment with Foster as Frankie Valli from “Jersey Boys” and, sporting a mop of hair, Gentile as Diana Ross from “Motown.”

Surprise: Broadway goes corporate

For the finale, the performers appear in suits and wearing corporate arm bands. They carry briefcases that say Chase, Chrysler and American Airlines. “Broadway belongs to me,” sing the suits, evoking the Nazi song from “Cabaret.”

“The neon on Broadway
Is vibrant and bright
The spectacle stunning to see.
It takes corporations to do it right
And Broadway belongs to me.”

“The cash from productions is leafy and green
And staggering profits run free.
The new David Merricks are now unseen
And Broadway belongs to me.”

“My job as the corporate fundraising head
Is funding art safe as can be.
And groundbreaking theatre is fin‘lly dead
And Broadway belongs to me.”

Then, more chilling, from Disney, “Tomorrow belongs to me.” Alessandri’s critique is not only funny and clever, but politically astute, seering and au courant.

The numbers are enhanced by the brilliant designers of costumes, Dustin Cross and Philip Heckman, and wigs, Bobbie Cliffton Zlotnik. And by David Caldwell, musical director and pianist.

If you miss this year’s version, you can get the CD. And wait till next season, when Broadway will supply a lot of awful grist for Alessandrini’s mill.

Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging. Created and written by Gerard Alessandrini; directed by Phillip George and Gerard Alessandrini. Davenport Theatre, 354 West 45th St., New York City. 212-239-6200, 1-800-432-7250; Opened May 4, 2014; closes July 20, 2014. A CD is available from DRG Records. 7/13/14.

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