In New York, Forbidden Broadway always stands consciously and sometimes self-consciously on the sidelines, throwing potshots at its illustrious targets from the safety of a perch Off-Broadway. But it always runs the danger of looking mean-spirited, like a poor cousin casting a longing eye at the playthings of richer relatives and seeking to undermine them by making fun of them.
In London it’s now a direct equal, playing alongside the shows it is satirising in the heart of the West End. Not only is Dirty Rotten Scoundrels playing across the street, but on the first night Robert Lindsay was in the house to watch Ben Lewis giving delicious play to his role in that show “why I’m miscast/I’m dirty rotten to the last” as well as Me and My Girl in which he once starred literally next door. And that creates a different sort of power and humour balance, too.
The jokes are less sour and more inclusive as a result. This edition, first seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory in the summer, has also been newly bolstered by the addition of an alumnus of the New York show, Christina Bianco, who does a knock-out line in vivid impersonations, with particularly ripe and hilarious versions of Elaine Paige, Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth and Bernadette Peters “See Me On a Monday, Please” to the tune of Tell Me On a Sunday.
In fact, the impersonations have been beefed up all around, with Damian Humbley giving a devastatingly accurate version of Mandy Patinkin singing “Somewhat Over-Indulgent” to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Anna-Jane Casey is brilliant as a wistful Angela Lansbury and a defiant Chita Rivera. It’s also bang up to date with new sketches incorporated on the return of Cats and Evita.
- Vaudeville Theatre, London
- September 9-November 22, PN September 15
- Author: Gerard Alessandrini
- Director/choreographer: Phillip George
- Musical director: Joel Fram
- Design: Morgan Large set, Morgan Large, Alvin Colt costume, Nick Richings lighting, Gareth Owen sound, Richard Mawbey for Wig Specialities hair and make-up
- Technical: Simon Sturgess production manager, Ciara Fanning company stage manager, Corrie Darling wardrobe mistress, Howard Hudson associate lighting design, Russell Godwin associate sound design
- Cast: Christina Bianco, Anna-Jane Casey, Damian Humbley, Ben Lewis
- Producers: Chocolate Factory Productions, Thelma Holt Ltd, Tanya Link Productions, Just for Laughs Theatricals, Glass Half Full Productions, John Freedson, Harriet Yellin
- Running time: 2hrs 15mins
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