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

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.

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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