Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

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Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

The Triad, NYC, October 18, 2019

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg for Cabaret Scenes

Gerard Alessandrini continues his love/hate-but-mostly-love relationship with musical theater in the newest edition of Forbidden Broadway, a tradition dating back to 1982, by returning it to where it all began when the space now known at The Triad Theatre first opened as Palsson’s Supper Club. This version brims with freshness in the subjects of attack and the approach to those satires.

The subtitle of the production, The Next Generation, refers to both the shows and the cast, exemplified by Joshua Turchin, the youngest member of the cast and the youngest performer to ever be featured in the series.

Unlike some of the previous editions, in this one there is a bit of a through line: a group of out-of-town tourists, including an enthusiastic and knowledgeable young man (Turchin), are led through a backstage tour of Broadway (“Forbidden Hadestown”) by guide Andre de Shields (an on-target Immanuel Houston) who allows them to check out what is playing and to actually inhabit some of the productions.

Houston also shone with his powerhouse voice as Jeremy Pope in Ain’t Too Proud, a fabulous Billy Porter in duet with Lin-Manuel Miranda (Chris Collins-Pisano), and a hysterical Jennifer Holliday in a trio also involving Bette Midler (Jenny Lee Stern) and Bernadette Peters—one of Forbidden Broadway’s regular divas (Aline Mayagoitia)—all insisting that “There’s Got to Be Something Better Than This.”

Stern got her chance to shine in two of the best sketches. Teaming up with Collins-Pisano for a salute to Fosse/Verdon with a brilliant medley of choreography by Gerry McIntyre quoting from a variety of the team’s dances as wittily constructed as Alessandrini’s lyrical play, the two performers inhabited their celebrity personas with flawless accuracy. Even more of a pow was the singer’s characterization of Judy Garland reflecting on her recent film portrayal and capturing the icon’s sarcastic wit and humanity, along with her vocal talent, with just maybe a bit of Renee Zellweger slipped in as well.

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Collins-Pisano also takes the lead in two of the big set pieces of the shows; Alessandrini has always featured lengthy takes on major productions such as Grim Hotel, Less Misérables, and Phantom of the Musical. These featured Tevye in Fiddler in Yiddish advising the audience to “Brush Up Your Yiddish” and Curly in Woke-lahoma! lamenting “Oh What a Miserable Mornin’,” and playing two characters requiring lots of quick costume changes for a non-musical salute to The Ferryman.

Mayagoitia demonstrated her versatility, by taking on both the aforementioned Peters and the fiery Karen Olivio in Moulin Rude, another of the epic sequences, and later a lachrymose Laurey in that Rodgers and Hammerstein travesty.

Young Turchin scored big in the inevitable Evan Hansen riff, as well as a red-gowned Santino Fontana in Tootsie and a clever Harry Potter duo. He also amusingly invaded the Moulin Rude section with a surprise appearance (not to be revealed here).

As is traditional in the Forbidden Broadway shows, there was a quiet moment toward the end of the show that was genuinely moving: “Your Time” beautifully harmonized by Turchin, Stern, and Collins-Pisano, with the latter embodying the spirit of Hal Prince as he delivered the emotional words of Carousel’s Starkeeper (or an appropriate approximation thereof).

Tribute must be paid to the man who holds the show together, music director Fred Barton.

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He played nearly continuously during the 85 minutes of the show, sensitively accompanying five diverse performers in a wide variety of musical styles and providing the almost invisible glue that held the delightful evening together.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."