Saturday, 18 October 2014

'Forbidden Broadway' Vaudeville Theatre ****

We Brits do like a good parody, specifically when it derives from impersonating certain industries and people. The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revised version of Gerard Alessandrini's mockery of the theatrical industry, ‘Forbidden Broadway’ receives its West End transfer, and I thought it was outstandingly hilarious and engaging throughout. ‘Forbidden Broadway’ has been continuously reworked since its formation in 1981, and this interpretation includes witty quick jibes to the likes of musical flops, ‘I Can't Sing!’ and ‘Stephen Ward’. We are greeted with an understanding of the egotistical and commercialist business that is theatre, especially when one member of the company instead of playing The Engineer from’ Miss Saigon’, the role has been reinvented to mimic the most successful musical producer in the United Kingdom Sir Cameron Mackintosh with “America’s cream” and establishes the pretentiousness of practitioners in this wondrous industry. In addition, the satire enables us to think why the industry has mislaid its originality, and basing musicals on children's books, films etc. , this is shown when we are when we see impersonation of Alex Jennings’ Willy Wonka with “Come with me, and we'll see a show with no imagination.” Moreover, we observe the industry's desire to cut down on employing musicians with a sneering musical number to End a Walsh’s ‘Once’ “And have you seen Once? Once is enough.” As well as, the production ridicules the role of the children’s Casting Director, and how manipulative child labour can be with the musicals, ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘Matilda The Musical’ where the child has to carry the show. There’s increasing poignancy here with the explanation of horrifically expensive ticket prices; in particular, ‘The Book of Mormon’. Even though Alessandrini has devised a rib-tickling production I did find the lack of a cohesive narrative to be slightly disappointing, but the dialogue was exceptionally tempting. One thought the performances by the company of ‘Forbidden Broadway’ was immaculate as their comic timing was beautifully precise. Christina Bianco is sparkling here; especially her performance as the iconic diva, Liza Minnelli with a burlesque atmosphere and her characterisation as Matilda were vastly laughable as her make-up was increased increasingly childlike. Anna Jane Casey is effervescent here; in particular when she plays one of the four members of juke box musical, ’Jersey Boys’ and her musicality is unprecedented in the Sondheim section. Damian Hambley is fantastic in the’ Les Miserables’ aspect which demeans the musicals longevity with “Ten Years More”. Ben Lewis is delightful as his Australian upbringing has being used meticulously when he insults Hugh Jackman’s portrayal in ‘Oklahoma’ and his balletic movements as Billy Elliot was riotous. Philip George's direction and choreography is brilliant as we are taken on a historical journey through what musical theatre is currently within United Kingdom and Broadway in an amusingly shameful expression. Morgan Large’s set design is dazzling as it appears that one has been invited to a cabaret style club where the entire industry of theatricality is mocked to smithereens, and the tinsel texture was increasingly eye-catching too and immensely camp. Overall, the experience of ‘Forbidden Broadway’ was a funny one and a well recommended show indeed.

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