Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits a Hoot for Musical Theatre Fans that Also Brings Creativity as an Area of Opportunity to Make it Relevant and Diverse in 2022

Currently Playing at North Coast Repertory Theatre Until May 22 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Forbidden Broadway. Front (L-R) Cathy Barnett, Trisha Rapier Back (L-R) Edward Staudenmayer, William Selby photo by Aaron Rumley(Les Miz)

Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits is definitely a hoot for musical theatre fans that can experience a sort of trivia night dynamic anticipating which musical is going to be "roasted" next covering a decent variety that goes old school from CATS, Les Miz, and Fiddler all the way to Frozen, Book of Mormon and Wicked. 

There is some unpacking that needs to be done with this production in between the laughs and fun though. One ultimately is that in order to parody, the craft has to be mastered first, and this small cast of Cathy Barnett, Trisha Rapier, Edward Staudenmayer, and William Selby definitely take command of the stage. Selby is also directing the piece for North Coast Repertory Theatre's engagement and has been involved with 'Forbidden since 1985. The four command the stage yet, Cathy Barnett and Trisha Rapier are phenomenal. Barnett is a comedic gem and Rapier has a voice for days. Her Barbara Streisand is spot on.

The other is that -all amazing talent and great performances aside- this revue or well, set of musical sketches written by American playwright Gerard Alessandrini first saw the light in a New York supper club in 1982. With so much room to grow and evolve 40 years later, the format in some of the sketches feels static and at times cringy. In these last years, especially since the pandemic and with organizations like "We See You W.A.T", Broadway is sort of trying to repair issues like the lack of representation both on its stages and in positions of power as well as trying to exercise diversity and inclusion. So, when the cast of Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits is all white including the piano player Elan McMahan, -who is lovely and also amazing-, yeah... where is the diversity? That, and three sketches that made me go "mmm"... 
Forbidden Broadway. William Selby photo by Aaron Rumley

I can see back in the nineties when Lion King The Musical came out, how making fun of the costumes and the music could be perceived as funny... but not in 2022. Not after everything that has happened. Playing devil's advocate here, I understand Julie Taymor designing very uncomfortable costumes and mocking the elephants and giraffes yes, funny up until that point. No need to have white actors dancing around in the Simba, Nala, and Rafiki costumes making fun of the language and sound. Unnecessary.

William Selby in the Director's Note included in the program, shares that "Being able to laugh at yourself is a sign of optimistic personality and having a sense of humor." He also shared speaking to many of the celebrities that are being "spoofed" on stage. So, when The Book of Mormon parody takes place, yes, mocking how the words are shoehorned in and how it's crass, is funny. Popping a big book prop that reads "Book of Morons"... again, I feel unnecessary. 

Lastly, in the Frozen sketch, part of the parody is that the plot is with two white sisters. Why not dive into that more and explore in order to make it relevant? I mean, the piece as a whole is already being taken to dark places. The real challenge is to push that creativity forward in all aspects and make it fun and funny for all throughout the two hours, sans the cringe.

Don't take my word, go see for yourself and formulate your own impressions.

Playing until May 22, for more information on performance times and ticket prices click here.

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