Brand-new `Forbidden Broadway' romps over 1988's hits

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Forbidden Broadway Satirical revue. Concept, parody lyrics, and direction by Gerard Alessandrini. While a sense of things theatrical enhances enjoyment, you don't have to be a show-biz buff to relish the satirical pleasures of ``Forbidden Broadway 1988.''

Having entertained West Side audiences for several seasons, the cabaret extravaganza of spoofs and parodies has moved to Theatre East, a posh, cheerfully crowded downstairs premises on East 60th Street. According to its press agent, ``Gerard Alessandrini's latest all-new version will be presented in New York as a full-length version with two acts and an intermission.''

And a full two acts they are. From comically raucous opening to finale `a la Sheldon-Harnick, four accomplished lampoonists zestfully mock the vagaries, trademarks, airs, and affectations of Broadway show folk.

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In solo and concert, Toni DiBuono, Roxie Lucas (doubling as choreographer), David B. McDonald, and Michael McGrath reveal the kind of comic portraiture reminiscent of bygone revues. At the same time, ``Forbidden Broadway 1988'' suggests an Al Hirschfeld montage come ebulliently to life.

Among the more memorable ensemble efforts are such numbers as ``Into the Words'' (a nod to Stephen Sondheim), ``Les Mis'erables'' (mock salute to megamusicals), ``Shuberts and Nederlanders Should Be Friends'' (``Oklahoma!'' meets show biz realtors), ``Almost Like Vegas in New York'' (which somehow assembles Jackie Mason, Robert Goulet, Liza Minnelli, and Judy Garland), ``Speed the Lines'' (Madonna and David Mamet meet Lerner and Loewe's ``My Fair Lady''), and ``Ambition'' (footnotes to the Sheldon-Harnick ``Tradition'').

One can merely suggest the range and impertinence of the solo takeoffs: Miss DiBuono's Nell Carter, Carol Channing, Patti LuPone, and Ethel Merman; Miss Lucas's Mary Martin and Elaine Stritch; Mr. McGrath's Joel Grey, M. Butterfly, and George M. Cohan; Mr. McDonald's Joseph Papp (``the Knife'') and a double-masked ``Phantom.''

Although George M. sends his ``regrets'' to Broadway, he's sure it will survive. (``Ask all the kids in `42nd Street.' To them, it's still alive.'') Here, as elsewhere, director-writer Alessandrini demonstrates his underlying affection for the world he parodies. While no respecter of persons, his twigging is usually without malice.

Mr. Alessandrini's ``Forbidden'' collaborators keep nimble pace with their mentor in performances that require instant impersonations, lightning changes of costume (by Erika Dyson), makeup and wigs, and the adroitness required by the postage-stamp Theatre East stage. Pianist Philip Fortenberry's accompaniments are a constant complement.

In the contemporary style of cabaret accommodations, the cramped seating at Theatre East resembles the second-class cabin on a cut-rate airline. But the entertainment is first-class all the way.

John Beaufort covers New York theater for the Monitor.

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