Venice Theatre ventures into spoof territory with Forbidden Broadway.
By Kay Kipling
When it comes to biting the hand that feeds you, Forbidden Broadway does it well. You might almost say that writer Gerard Alessandrini and his minions invented the art.
But it’s been a while since we’ve seen a production of this spoof of top Broadway shows and stars here locally, and it was time for an update. Which we’ve gotten, courtesy Venice Theatre’s Cabaret Series.
This time around we still have the familiar (but always eminently ripe for satire) likes of Liza Minnelli (Liza One-Note), Carol Channing (she’ll do Dolly Levi anywhere, any time) and Mandy Patinkin (Somewhat Overindulgent to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow). But beyond the famous turntable scenes from Les Miserables, which we get to see not once here but twice, we’ve advanced into a more recent era with jabs at Wicked (in a performance that’s Defying Subtlety, not gravity), Hairspray (You Can’t Stop the Camp), Rent and Spamalot (acknowledging that it’s hard to spoof a spoof).
This may sound like you have to be a Broadway insider to enjoy this show, but you don’t. You’re bound to recognize certain targets no matter how long it’s been since you set foot in a Broadway theater.
And the cast—Bobbi Eschenbach, Heather Kopp, Charles McKenzie and Craig Weiskerger, ably abetted by pianist Michael Sebastian and director Michael Newton-Brown—perform with such zing that the humor is delivered whether you’ve missed a show or two or not. Eschenbach has a field day donning various wigs and attitudes to play her divas; she’s particularly on target as Liza. McKenzie scores as one of those ever popular Cats (it’s a steady gig); Kopp as an actress in Les Miz who spends her time backstage On My Phone, texting; and Weiskerger as the souvenir-hawking producer Cameron Mackintosh (hanging on a clothesline a few of his Favorite Things for sale).
But the most fun comes when they’re all onstage together, as in the backhanded salute to Stephen Sondheim’s lyrical complexity, Into the Words; parodying Fiddler on the Roof’s Tradition with Ambition as job-hungry New York actors; and emphasizing the minimal style of Bob Fosse’s vision of Chicago.
Overall, it’s a fast, funny 90 minutes or so in the cozy environs of the Yvonne Pinkerton Theatre, where in true cabaret style you can sip a drink at a tiny table while taking in the show. Forbidden Broadway continues through Sept. 21; call 488-1115 or go to venicestage.com.