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Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits: Vol. 1

a Musical Parody
CATEGORY : MUSICAL
by Gerald Alessandrini

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Georgia Ensemble Theatre and Conservatory [WEBSITE]
ID# 3988

SHOWING : April 07, 2011 - April 24, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits: Vol. 1 is an amazingly funny musical revue of some of the favorite Broadway shows of all time, including "The Lion King," "Les Misérables," "Hairspray," "Wicked," "Mamma Mia," "Cats," "Annie" and more!

The Off-Broadway sensation, "Forbidden Broadway," has performed in New York with updated versions over the course of almost 30 years. Georgia Ensemble Theatre is proud to bring you the latest! You’ll love this funny and endlessly entertaining tribute to some of Broadway’s greatest legends, actors and shows that will delight the theatre buff in all of us!


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Don Farrell
Accompanist Jeffrey Herndon
Cast Don Farrell
Cast Wendy Melkonian
Cast Marcie Millard
Cast Geoff Uterhardt
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]

Return to the Only-Okay Gray Way
by Dedalus
Thursday, June 2, 2011
4.0
I have always found Gerald Alessandrini’s “Forbidden Broadway” series a muted pleasure. For the most part, I find his parodies pointed, accurate, and (more often than not) laugh-out-loud funny. Occasionally, though, they are laced with venom and downright cruelty. Times like those I usually just roll my eyes and skip to the next number.

So, it was with great pleasure I went to see this “Greatest Hits” revue of the highlights of 27 years of parodies and pastiches. Sure enough, on view were classic take-offs on (among others) “Lion King,” “Mamma Mia,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Wicked,” and “Les Misérables” (which seemed to be so “honored” in almost every version, including 2009’s “On My Phone”). Unfortunately, it also included at least one number from the “cruel and unfunny” group (“Liza One-Note”).

Still, there is more to love than not here. For one thing, since (most of) these spoofs are done with a basic affection for musicals in general, they are, barbs notwithstanding, almost a “love letter” to Broadway. Even the barbs are laced with a touch of “this could be so much better” hopefulness. And, seeing parodies of shows long closed is not a real issue, since most musicals featured are constantly being revived or toured or given local productions.

I was afraid an issue here would be the venue. The show was originally produced at a small dinner-theatre venue (so small it was considered “off-Broadway” despite its on-Broadway address). There was always a sense of intimacy between the audience and the singers, even an occasional give-and-take interaction, It turns out, my fear was unfounded. Sure, the cavernous Georgia Ensemble venue prohibits the same level of intimacy, but the four performers are quick to establish a “mass rapport” and make it seem smaller(ish). Even more, some numbers take on a different “feel” – the Ethel Merman vs Head Mike smack-down, for example – that work in different, but equally valid ways as the originals.

The cast, in fact, is made up of comic-actors-who-sing rather than singers-who-act, and that is all to the good. I’ve always liked the work of Googie Uterhardt, Marcie Millard, and Wendy Melkonian, and they are up to their expected excellence here. They are joined by director Don Farrell, who has been away from Atlanta longer than I’ve been here, but his return is welcome. The logistics of this show are complex (even chaotic), and Mr. Farrell has directed and cast the numbers in a way that keeps the numbers zipping along with no (discernable) pauses for costume changes. And those costumes (by Abby Parker) work in every scene – from the “Concert Revue” gowns and tuxes to the specific show costumes which run the gamut from homage copy (“Fiddler”) to outrageous exaggeration (“Lion King”).

Special kudos also need to go to accompanist Jeff Herndon who kept the cast together, even when the parodies sends singer into vocal keys that never existed on a keyboard.

Yes, this is a revue with no through-story, but the songs are a musical geek’s treasure trove. How you react will depend a lot on how much you enjoyed the shows being spoofed. It’s a measure of this production that I enjoyed even those parodies on shows I unequivocally loved, mostly because the targets are less the shows themselves than aspects of them that can be, well, targeted – Les Miz’s longevity and length, “Lion King’s” over-the-top costumes (what must it be like to wear them every night?), “Wicked’s” “Dueling Divas.” There are also some cases where the parody has little to do with the show itself than with life on Broadway (in general) – specifically the “Fiddler” “traditions” transposed to a life in New York theatre.

Ironically, this production has closed, as has the long-running New York original. Fortunately there are over ten collections (including box sets and compilations) available for purchase (or download), which means there is enough material for many more “Greatest Hits” productions.

I suspect this will become one of those “it never gets old” franchises that I, at least, will welcome with every new version. Do you suppose anyone will ever attempt some Atlanta-specific versions?

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Forbidden Broadway Sells Out
by playgoer
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
3.5
To my thinking, the greatest joy of the "Forbidden Broadway" series was seeing unknown performers doing spot-on imitations of well-known Broadway stars and skewering the current Broadway season. Seeing well-known Atlanta performers doing adequate impressions of stars and skewering decades-old shows just isn't the same. It's as if the early "Forbidden Broadway" shows, performed in intimate boites, have been inflated with hot air to fill up the large Georgia Ensemble Theatre auditorium.

Don't get me wrong -- there is terrific talent onstage. Wendy Melkonian and Googie Uterhardt have never sounded better onstage, and Marcie Millard is as engaging as ever. Don Farrell, the director as well as a cast member, hails from Roswell, although his professional experience appears to have been centered in Indiana, and he is the most skilled imitator (his Carol Channing and Mandy Patinkin are terrific). The problem is that the material is too New York-centric and too dated to come across as fresh.

The production doesn't have much of a set (series of lights on a proscenium and a curtain of sparkly silver fronds). It's the costumes by Abby Parker that add sparkle to the show. They actually got the most applause at the performance I saw, for the spoof of "The Lion King." Well, it actually was the costumes and the way the cast sported them, clomping on and off and making silly animal movements. That actually was the choreographic highlight of the show. The choreographic low point? Marcie Millard appearing to do a very sedate twist as Ethel Merman. No choreographer is listed in the credits, and it shows.

The logo of the show is misleading. It shows a caricature of Barbra Streisand at one corner, but she figures prominently only in the lyrics of Mandy Pantikin's "Overly Indulgent." (Perhaps we are supposed to remember Wendy Melkonian's terrific turn as Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl" several years ago and let that be the Streisand tribute.) The logo also shows a Spamalot caricature in the center, but the closest to that we get is armored mockery of Richard Kiley in (apparently) a revival of "Man of La Mancha." There's no context for the Broadway seasons to which the parodies pertain, so topicality in this case turns to tastelessness.

The best portion of the show, I thought, was a "Fiddler on the Roof"-inspired paeon to the ambition of actors that leads them to New York. It is patterned on the song "Tradition," but its content is universal. When universality trumps specificity, "Forbidden Broadway" has morphed into something quite different from its original incarnations. To me, that's a bad thing. To audiences coming to enjoy sparkling performances by a top-notch cast, it probably won't make any difference at all. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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