New York City Theater
"Forbidden Broadway—Special Victims Unit"
47th Street Theatre, Manhattan
“Forbidden Broadway,” now 23 years old, still takes its familiar swipes at the running Broadway shows. Given the abundance of shows this past season, there is much to attack, which writer Gerard Alessandrini and performers Megan Lewis, Ron Bohmer, Jason Mills and Jeanne Montano do with a will. Moving at a breathless pace, with wigs and costumes whirling about, it gives the viewer little time for appraisal. The multi-talented Bohmer and Lewis change characters (and wigs) in a flash, as do the equally fleet-footed Mills and Montano.
And that is a good thing, since the numbers do in fact vary in quality. On the funny scale, some pieces rise well above others. High on that scale is Bohmer’s Robert Goulet, pictured as an over-the-hill performer who can’t remember his lines. Christine Applegate, too, comes in for a hilarious battering, as performer Lewis turns her into a klutz. And “Light in the Piazza,” brilliantly satirized by the writer and performers Lewis, Mills, and Montano, is a veritable gem. They turn the story into the silliest of ideas as they stumble through the difficult music. “Who’s in Doubt with Virginia Woolf?” is beguiling because of Megan Lewis’s letter-perfect copy of Cherry Jones. Lewis is a gifted mimic, who can get the intonations just right as she belts out a song a la Patti Lupone or Ethel Merman.
Yet, despite the efforts of this earnest quartet and the trendy title, “Forbidden Broadway—Special Victims Unit” lacks the bite of earlier productions. Can it be that the writer has grown older and more mellow? But there are strong moments. And the show is blessed with a costume designer who may very well be the star. Alvin Colt has a bottomless treasure chest of ideas and fabrics, as one wild, funny outfit after another makes its appearance.
-- Irene Backalenick
Sept. 11, 2005