Sometimes there is, in fact, a very logical explanation for something that has lasted so long. With several incarnations, updated along with the trends and shows of the Great White Way, Forbidden Broadway has endured for decades because it’s a musical repository for hilarity. The latest version to tour, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking, playing for a limited engagement at the San Jose Rep, is no exception, bring the hahahas and lalalas in equal parts.
While initially the cabaret/concert, minimalist style of the opening number worried me a bit, I was pleasantly surprised as the show progressed in to much more than “just a revue.” At under two hours including intermission, this cast of four (plus a tremendous piano player) doesn’t seem to have a chance to breathe as there is hardly a second there isn’t something going on. The vocal (and comedy) chops required to sing dozens of famous show stoppers, one right after the other, belting and harmonizing more musical styles that you can track, plus ridiculously quick, quick changes, put this show in a category of its own. It’s incredibly demanding and yeah, kind of epic.
While the more you know about Broadway, certainly the more you’ll enjoy the references and inside industry jokes, there is enough humor and talent on stage that even if you were completely ignorant of any Broadway show, you’d be entertained. The jokes are sharp and raw, dark and daring, but also given the fact that they are mocking the very things we are so enjoying listening to, it doesn’t seem too mean spirited with the exception of just a few places which had me cringing a bit in the “too soon” vein. Act two starts off quite a bit darker with its satirical commentary on the “biz,” but also contains two of the best parts of the whole show when Mandy Patinkin and Liza Minnelli impressions brought the house down. So. Funny.
I’m glad Broadway has a sense of humor about itself and has “allowed” this show to continue with signature songs from all the best shows and a healthy biting wit accompanying them. I’m also glad theater audiences have a sense of humor about themselves, as a lot of that humor is directed at us too. A lovely evening awaits you with some outstanding vocals and expertly executed parody. Go. If for no other reason, do it for Mandy and Liza. It’s what they would want. 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for a fun time and silly celebration of Broadway’s best. Forbidden Broadway plays through March 2nd only at the San Jose Repertory Theatre in San Jose.