Forbidden Broadway

Marcus Stevens, Christiana Craig-Dukes, Joe Domencic, Chris Laitta
In a testimony to the genius of parodist Gerard Alessandrini, the CLO Cabaret production of Forbidden Broadway is a rollicking success. Alessandrini first put his satirical Broadway caricatures on stage in January of 1982 at New York's Palsson's Supper Club, and the frequently updated show continues today as Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit in its current home, the 47th Street Theatre. The good-natured (usually) jabs at legendary Broadway performers and shows are written with an insider's edge, in a way that lovers of theatre can truly appreciate. The Pittsburgh version is a potpourri of selections from 23 years of Forbidden Broadway, adn the targets are classic musical theatre stars and titles, and shows that have toured through Pittsburgh.

For those who are not familiar with Forbidden Broadway ... the show is a revue of musical skits lampooning Broadway performers, shows, and their creators. The singers are dressed and made up as the subjects they are toasting, and nearly all of the songs are comprised of parody lyrics sung to the tune of a real song. For example, "Glossy Fosse" is a parody of Chicago's "Razzle Dazzle," using the same melody ("Glossy Fosse 'em and they'll make you a star"). In the current production at the Cabaret Theatre, we see twists on favorites, such as a cigarette-smoking Annie ("I'm thirty years old - tomorrow"), the venerable Carol Channing, Les Misérables and The Lion King medleys, a duet with the Phantom of the Opera and Ethel Merman, Broadway's newest superstar Hugh Jackman, the witches of Wicked and more.

On Cletus Anderson's most appropriate proscenium set, with shimmering curtain and classic Forbidden Broadway neon logo, Christiana Craig-Dukes, Joe Domencic, Christine Laitta and Marcus Stevens show versatility and high energy as they present a couple dozen songs, accompanied by the very talented Musical Director Deana Muro on piano. Every bit gets a laugh, but some are easier to appreciate than others. A Sweet Charity spoof on Christina Applegate's recent Broadway appearance, which received notice for her lack of professional stage experience and a foot injury, was probably better appreciated in New York before the show closed, and the skit about the dismal short-lived failure, Lennon, is funny because Craig-Dukes does a very funny Yoko Ono impression, but I don't know that it's clear why Ono is even present in a show about Broadway. For the most part, however, Forbidden Broadway is written and presented in a way that can easily be appreciated by anyone with a passing knowledge of Broadway shows and performers.

Key to the success, in addition to Alessandrini's spot-on writing, is admirable work by Director William Selby, who has guided this young cast to deliver the humor without going over-the-top. Mind you, this is humor of the broadest sort, but the costumes (brilliantly designed by Alvin Colt), make-up, and material nearly land the laughs themselves - the performers need to carry, not push, these components to the punch line.

In an interview with Talkin' Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini said performers cast in Forbidden Broadway shows should be "funny, and they have to have great voices. They have to have a wide range of vocal ability ... they don't have to be mimics." Casting for this show follows those lines, and allows for excellent assignments of the roles. Pretty blonde Christiana Craig-Dukes, with a killer vibrato, does Carol Channing and Kristin Chenoweth, among others, with great success. She is a great comedienne, as is Christine Laitta, whose delivery is less restrained and appropriate for Ethel Merman. Marcus Stevens does great character work with treatments of Harvey Fierstein and an elderly Don Quixote, while Joe Domencic gets the hilarious send-up of producer Cameron Mackintosh and the souvenir phenomenon and hip-shaking Hugh Jackman. The group effort on the Les Misérables medley is particularly rewarding.

Forbidden Broadway is currently an extended run at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square. The show is produced by Pittsburgh CLO and sponsored by the Charity Randall Foundation. Performances are Thursday through Sunday with student, group and senior pricing available. For more information, call 412-456-6666 or visit

Photo: Matt Polk

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-- Ann Miner

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