IF YOU GO
What: Musical revue that pokes fun at Broadway's biggest hits
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday - Friday in Daniels Pavilion
Where: Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, 5833 Pelican Bay Boulevard, Naples
Information: 800-597-1900 or thephil.org
Something Else: Park near the Wachovia Bank on Pelican Bay Boulevard for a quick exit, as Phil traffic is notoriously difficult.
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
NAPLES — Is the New York Times Theater section your bible? Can you recall Tony winners at the drop of a tap shoe? Do you rate LaDucas higher than Louboutins? Do you argue over who was the best "Phantom?" Then "Forbidden Broadway" might just be your kind of show.
The irreverent, zany and viciously satirical show pokes fun at the altogether too serious side of theater, whether it be jukebox musicals, Disney spectaculars or performers who can't sing.
The show opens with a slight twist on the classic tune from "Forum," "Parody Tonight!" Four actors whip through loving parodies of everything from "Evita" to "Wicked" in 90 minutes. If you don't recognize "If I Were A Christian Man" from "Fiddler," wait for "Circle of Mice" from "Lion King."
Bored? There's a double parody from "Mary Poppins." One skewers the sugary humor of the show with a riposte of the famous tune “Stupid Careless Fictional Nonsensical Verboseness.” Another smacks tourists and Connecticut thrill-seekers with “Feed The Burbs.” “Early each day down at T-K-T-S, the crowds from Connecticut come. They prefer a smart play, but they all acquiesce, and instead they attend something dumb.”
Gerard Alessandrini created the show as a cabaret act in 1982; "Forbidden Broadway" has grown and changed each year since then. Numbers change to parody Broadway's new crop, although certain long-standing favorites remain.
For instance, I've seen the show three times - and seen a 40-year-old chain-smoking "Annie" puffing on a cigarette while trying to hack out the words to tomorrow. Also a triple? A tribute to marketing genius Cameron McIntosh ("Cats," "Les Miserables"). Sample lyric: "It costs $100 to see the show / and $100 more … to leaveeeeeeee!"
The previous Forbidden Broadway tour played Naples in April 2011; this cast even contains two of the same performers: Valerie Fagan and Jeanne Montano. They are joined by Craig Laurie and Kevin B. McGlynn. A good chunk of the show remains the same.
Beyond the "Annie" and "Les Miserables" standbys, there's a "Defying Subtlety" gag from "Wicked." This sent a ripple of laughter across the room when Montano crawled up on a milk crate and bellowed "DEFYING SUBTLETY!!!!!!" wearing a green face mask and a witch's cloak. Because if "Wicked" is anything - it is NOT subtle.
"Lion King" gags made a re-appearance, with jabs at the uncomfortable puppet costumes and another with a "Circle of Mice" parody of Disney's cash-register instincts. Kevin McGlynn waddles on stage in an outlandish Rafiki get-up, wearing a robe decorated with tiny Mickey Mouses and a pot as a hat. He's got chopsticks for claws and mumbles something incomprehensible, then says "Rafiki translate: KA-CHING!"
Some new material does make it into the show. A "Jersey Boys" parody nails the formulaic dance moves, odd narrative structure - and specifically the show's singing style. The Four Seasons song at the heart of show sees its lyrics twisted to become "Walk like a man, sing like a girl, you’ll soar to number one. Falsetto pitch is such a b****!"
The other new bit that works mixes perennial favorites "Cats" and "A Chorus Line," with kitties auditioning to the lyrics of "scratch, scratch, lick, sniff, etc." Then, kittens whip off their overcoats to reveal the gold vests from "Chorus Line" - and sparkling gold hats with leopard print - for a few more verses.
Some fresh stuff seems to be in the tryout phase, or possibly a bit insider-ish. For audiences outside New York or who don't read the trade press and devour every scrap of news that falls off the Great White Way, some of these must have felt like bad "Saturday Night Live" skits that refused to end.
An "Evita" parody focuses more on the struggles of the musical to attract an audience with former pop star Ricky Martin and Elena Roger than the show itself. The "Nice Work If You Can Get It" number trades solely on the fact that Matthew Broderick is more of an actor than a singer.
The show even retreats to television, with a mediocre-to-awful "duet" from the dueling divas of "Smash" in the second half. As much as NBC tries, "Smash," with an average audience of fewer than 8M, is not a hit; neither was the sketch.
Nor was "Smash" the worst crash of the night. That singular honor goes to the "Patti & Mandy" bit, a "funny only if you knew what it was about" piece that depicts the much-anticipated reunion concert with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. Here, the actors nail the impressions, the voices and the slobbering, fawning treatment that LuPone and Patinkin gave each other - but you could almost feel the blank stares from the crowd. Very few people in the room knew what was being poked fun of, much less why it was humorous.
In the immortal words of "Less Miserables," "at the end of the play we're another year older!" Email me, email@example.com. Email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.
Correction: A previous version of this review stated that a "Forbidden Broadway" tour played the Philharmonic eight months ago. The previous tour actually played Naples in April 2011.
Full Disclosure: Naples Daily News publisher Dave Neill is a member of the board of directors of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.