Gird your loins, Broadway: Gerard Alessandrini is back, and he’s not afraid to aim below the belt. In the three years since the last edition of his long-lived satirical revue, many deserving targets have gone sadly unskewered by Alessandrini’s famous spit. But now Forbidden Broadway has returned, sharp as ever, and the resulting roast is a tasty one, marinated in peppery wit and gently charred on flames fed by spirited musical bellows.
As always, Alessandrini adopts the position of the ever affronted, ever back-talking musical-theater preservationist, extolling the values of a bygone Broadway era: craft, warmth, cleverness, taste, pizzazz and self-seriousness. In Alive and Kicking, he reserves especially hard knocks for Evita’s Elena Roger and Ricky Martin,Nice Work If You Can Get It’s Matthew Broderick (“Tepid dull and nasal / Mooing like a sick cow”) and the Judy Garland bio-smear End of the Rainbow. Mandy Patinkin and Patti LuPone are affectionately ribbed for playing ingenue roles in their concert last year; and there are good pokes at the bumptious energy of Newsies and the precious vagueness of Once (“We’re so unpretentious / That now we’re pretentious”).
Not every shot scores, of course. When Alessandrini’s point is muddled—as in sketches about The Book of Mormon, Rock of Ages and Anything Goes—the spoofs can seem merely cranky. And a few older bits recycled for this outing, mostly in the second act, have lost freshness over the years. But the game young cast, codirected by Alessandrini and Phillip George, fills in the blank spots with verve. Cycling frenetically through roles (and Philip Heckman’s amusing costumes), the fiercely focused Jenny Lee Stern and the twinkle-eyed Marcus Stevens stand out in multiple impersonations; Scott Richard Foster offers a memorable takedown of Once’s Steve Kazee, and Natalie Charlé Ellis does a surprisingly good impression of Porgy and Bess star Audra McDonald. The production’s goofy, lively tone keeps Alive and Kicking from seeming dour; its meaty gripes are offset by the tart, sweet flavor of its raspberries.—Adam Feldman
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