Spotlight On
Gerard Alessandrini


by Nancy Rosati              

Current cast members Becky Barta, Carter Calvert, Eric Gutman, Michael West, Gina Kreiezmar, and William Selby are now presenting Forbidden Broadway: 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre, slinging arrows at The Producers, Mamma Mia, Oklahoma!, Aida, Contact and The Full Monty in addition to favorites The Lion King, Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago and more. To celebrate the 20th anniversary we asked some former cast members to share a few memories.

Christine Pedi and Gerard AlessandriniChristine Pedi (over 12 companies of Forbidden Broadway)
Gerard is a sick man with a twisted and warped sense of humor and I think that everyone in the theatrical community, both on stage and off, should thank God that he is all of the above, and will continue to be that way. With the closing of The Fantasticks, I realized that that represents Off Broadway in its purest form. We represent Off Broadway in its most irreverent form. The theatre, and particularly New York theatre, needs Forbidden Broadway. Itís the watchdog and itís the ever-watchful eye that says, ďHey, get over yourself. Donít take things too seriously.Ē It keeps us from getting too full of ourselves. Clearly itís been working. For twenty years people canít seem to get enough of an eveningís worth of calling attention to our flaws, our inconsistencies, our excesses. When you do it as well as Gerard, thereís no reason for it not to run for another twenty years.

Jason 	GraaeJason Graae (Forbidden Hollywood, Forbidden Broadway - L.A.)
Iíve had the most fun Iíve ever had in any show in Forbidden Broadway. We just did Forbidden Broadway Y2K LA. I was working with three of my best friends - Suzanne Blakeslee, Christine Pedi and Gerry McIntyre. We were doing Aspects of Love and I came out as Michael Ball. I was behind a sheet and I was supposed to be naked. Gerry and I decided on closing night that we would be naked and weíd surprise Suzanne. We came out in bathrobes and Suzanne came out with a sheet to cover us, but when we dropped our bathrobes behind the sheet, we were completely butt naked. Suzanneís eyes popped out so wide that the audience completely knew what was going on and everybody started laughing. We could barely get one note out. Iím sure Gerard would have fired us, except it was closing, so it worked out just fine.

Batt English Pedi Ward Staudenmayer
Bryan Batt, Donna English, Christine Pedi,
Matthew Ward, Edward Staudenmayer

Bryan Batt (Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back, Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act)
I owe a great debt to Gerard and Phil (George) for encouraging me to try something that I didnít even think I could do. When you do Forbidden Broadway, you work without a net. Youíre given new songs and skits one day, they stage them, and then theyíre in the show that night. Youíre flying by the seat of your pants and it calls on every skill you know as an actor to make that work. The experience I got from it was invaluable. They gave me such an opportunity to open up and try new things. I remember all the wonderful sketches that were cut because the show closed or because something wasnít working. Big and being the ugliest Kit Kat Girl in Cabaret come to mind. They were great. Iíd love to see an evening of those.

Donna English (Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back)
About the funniest (and most horrifying) thing that happened to me during my Forbidden run was in the midst of The King and Her sketch. Bryan Batt was playing Lou Diamond Phillips, dressed in this red, open-jacket costume, with these gold buttons sewn all over it. I was playing Donna Murphy as Fosca from Passion, playing Anna very dark. I was in a huge black hoop skirt, a very severe black wig, parted down the middle and pulled into a low bun. I had a thick black unibrow and a large mole made out of velcro stuck on my face. I was groveling at his feet, with my arms around his knees, telling him how much I loved him. He did a sweeping gesture over my head to tell me to leave, and one of the buttons on his jacket sleeve caught in my wig and pulled it off my head. It was just sort of dangling there as he held the pose. And I was suddenly a really ugly woman in a flesh colored wig cap, looking rather bald, with a furry unibrow and a huge mole. We tried our best to stay in the moment but of course the audience howled. I gingerly reached up and disentangled it, and we carried on. Losing a wig in most shows would be a tragedy, but in Forbidden Broadway, it only heightened the fun. And it truly was fun.

Edward Staudenmayer (Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back, Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act)
It was wonderful for me and I owe them a lot. It was very hard opening a new version when we did Cleans Up. There was a lot of stress on everybody, but I so admired Gerard because he has been doing this for so long and every two years or so he has to go up and be judged again and again. What a hard thing to do - to always have to be better than your last show. I have a huge amount of admiration for him for that. I remember how it was putting it together and thinking how itís so difficult for him to always have to top himself. And he succeeds. I learned a lot doing Forbidden Broadway. It was great training for me.

David HibbardDavid Hibbard (Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back)
I was involved with the "comeback" of Forbidden Broadway with Bryan Batt, Donna English, and Christine Pedi. It was a very exciting time. Forbidden Broadway had been off the scene for about 5 years. The theatre was thriving, there was plenty of material for Gerard and Phil George to pull from, and the community was ready.

Forbidden Broadway was a huge success. It had brilliant sketches, a talented cast and a very enthusiastic following. Rent had opened, Julie Andrews had snubbed the Tony Awards, Nathan Lane was in full glory with Forum - the time was right. People flocked to see what the buzz was about. I was in full Isabelle Stevenson drag for the "snubbing scene" (not a pretty sight) and there she was in that tiny audience!

One particular evening Stephen Sondheim was in the audience - a fact that was rather obvious with the size of that theater. The skit was Passion meets The King and I which mocked the dark acting tone the new revival had taken on. Donna English was Fosca in the land of the king, and Sondheim lost it. He could be seen laughing so hard and actually banging his head against the wall.

I had to leave the show 3 weeks after opening to open in the Once Upon a Mattress revival so I'm sure I missed some great stories, but the time I had there was incredibly full. It was one of the most demanding jobs I've had thus far in the theater, and one of the most rewarding. Creating the show is a tricky process - one full of competition, laughter and exhaustion, but never losing the goal in sight - imitation is the highest form of flattery. What got me through the process was immersing myself in the piece. I imagine Saturday Night Live is similar in style - trying to create skits and sketches that speak for themselves and poke fun at the theater. It can be challenging, frustrating, but oh so rewarding.

Lori HammelLori Hammel (Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back, Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act)
I have a quick story. At one point one of our cast members got sick and I remember that Gerardís response was incredibly moving and he showed a lot of compassion for this person. I think thatís a side that people donít think of with him.

For more information, visit the Forbidden Broadway website at ForbiddenBroadway.com