This gloriously funny five-star take-no-prisoners revue sends up nearly the all of the West End's shows until multiple organ failure feels a punchline away.
Ripping through audiences for over 30 years, this take-no-prisoners Broadway revue is dangerously funny. Lining up nearly the entirety of the West End’s current offerings in its sights, it delivers hit after hit after hit, until multiple organ failure feels just a punchline away.
Originally created by Gerard Alessandrini as a bunch of scribbled travesties, ‘Forbidden Broadway’ has grown into a full-on sensation, expanding with new songs and routines to match the changing facades of Broadway and Theatreland. That so many of the biggest shows squat for years and decades must help immeasurably, but as the company slice and dice ‘The Pajama Game’ and plough into a terrific send-up of vapid strum-along ‘Once’, it’s the show’s freshness and reactivity that make it so thrilling.
From the ‘Matilda’-disembowelling ‘Exploited Children’ to a brutally dismissive takedown of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, the more recent material is largely killer, though an attempt to out-piss-take the outright-piss-take of ‘Book of Mormon’ doesn’t quite draw blood.
But the older material, and particularly the storming ‘Les Mis’ routine that concludes Act One, is just sickeningly brilliant. A full-frontal assault on ‘The Lion King’ that precedes a cheeringly pointed attack on the corporate takeover of commercial theatre is magnificent, and the ‘Wicked’ spoof ‘Defying Subtlety’ belting. There’s a swipe at Stephen Sondheim’s wordiness, but Alessandrini is no sloucher in the lyrics department either, and his lines are packed with snapback wit and wordplay. A healthy knowledge of West End mega-hits is advisable, and there are sections clearly aimed at seriously seasoned audiences, but barring a series of solo-spots from Anna-Jane Casey and Sophie-Louise Dann, nothing outstays its welcome.
It could all be rather sneering and clever-clever if it wasn’t delivered with such total skill and commitment. Casey may have the best set of pipes in the company of four, but it’s a true ensemble achievement.
There’s just no question that this is the funniest show in London at the moment. Forbidden? It’s so outrageously good it should be illegal.