Michael A. Benedetto | New York, NY USA | 02/23/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Gerard Alessandrini has certainly gone to the well many, many times with his "Forbidden Broadway" series. As such, the most timeless subjects have been more or less exhausted -- we certainly don't need another appearance by Ethel Merman in *every* new edition, and the concept of stars inappropriate for their roles (this time, Cheryl Ladd as Annie Oakley) is nothing new at all. The "Strikes Back" edition set a standard which worked extraordinarily well at the time, but Alessandrini has hewn perhaps too closely to that standard in subsequent editions.Still, the well isn't dry yet, and there are plenty of gems on this album. Notable among them: "Sondheim's Blues", the second half of the "Music Man" sequence, "Scars", "Beauty's Been Decreased" and the "Aida" sequence. A previous reviewer decried the Gwen Verdon number as tasteless; it was actually written to appear in the show and dropped immediately after her unexpected death, and was recorded as a tribute to her talent. That said, it is only mildly amusing, far less so than the brilliant "Contact" parody which was too visual to record, or even the numbers preserved from earlier editions of the show.On the whole, of course, people new to the series would be well advised to pick up volume 2 or volume 4 first -- while these parodies are fresh, they lack the thrill and bite of the ones included on those albums. I still laugh harder at the memory of number 4's "Shall We Boink?" than I have at anything here that I've just heard for close to the first time."
Do the Math
Michael A. Benedetto | 03/15/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Four CDs cover the first 20 Years of Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini's viciously witty satire of New York Theatre. The last year has seen Three new CDs, FB "Cleans Up Its Act" "20th Anniversary Edition" and now "2001 a Spoof Odyssey". Do the math. Alessandrini is running out of ideas, and is spreading the remaining ones too thin. . Sanitized Time Square - Been there. Disnified Broadway - Done that, and so many times. Asinine casting faux pas, plotless pointless set-monster musicals, and Ethel Merman and Liza. We've heard it all before - and last time, it was funnier. Now normally when a writer (or director or actor) has truly entertained me on numerous occasions, I'll forgive the odd show that disappoints. This would be the case here except for two things: Alessandrini is in the vicious parody business - he's never spared anyone else Besides, if he's going to actually include couplets like: "If lyrics are no longer witty... Then I don't want to go " he's inviting the pans.When you hear the AIDA lampoon, you'll be reminded of the dim bulb in Cyrano de Bergerac who taunts the hero with the brilliant witticism: Your nose is very large Yes, there are a few true Forbidden Broadway tracks on Spoof Odyssey. Dame Judi Dench singing "Why can't Americans do theatre like the Brits?" (with apologies to My Fair Lady), I Hate Ben (with apologies to Kiss Me Kate) and about 1/3 of "Let's Ruin Time Square Again" (no apologies necessary to Rocky Horror which understands how easy it is for good parody to go bad). Oh yes, there is one absolutely true Forbidden Broadway track: TROUBLE - yes, the same Trouble from Volume 3 which was just re-released on the 20th Anniversary compilation - and it's back again with a more hackneyed Robert Preston impersonation and all of 4 words changed. Granted it's one of the better bits, more worthy of rerunning than say, referring to Miss Saigon as Viet-Numb, but oh, he reran that gag too"
Live from the Diner, Eggs Over Easy and a side of REhash
Randy Goldberg | 02/20/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The recording of the latest edition of 'Forbidden Broadway' is here to let us know the wit and fun which once made it a guilty pleasure is as dead as Ethel Merman (who inexplicably appears yet again.)When FB first opened it was done by a group of wanna-be stars taking aim at some of the egos and disasters who were taking jobs from those plucky kids and keeping them unemployed. It could be catty, rude and plain delightful. If only the same could be said of the new recording.It starts with a painfully unfunny airline intro which as a LITTLE too close to Jan Hooks in 'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' which is, as far as this writer knows, yet a Broadway musical. It is followed by another of Alessandrini's love/hate letters to the Brits with a number sung by "Judi Dench." Not funny. Even less funny is the recylying of a "Music Man" parody first done in FB in the early 80s. If anything could be worse than the current revival of MM, it is this spoof, although the segment where Winthrop begs Hill to leave is quite funny.To be honest, the "I Hate Ben", "Saturday Night Fiasco" and "Beauty's Been Decreased" are moderately amusing. Only one number on the recording is worth having been recorded at all and that is "Sondheim's Blues." One just wishes it had been recorded by someone more talented than Danny Gurwin who is featured to not good effect in almost every number. One wonders what attributes he may have in performance that do not record. His voice is passable for the chorus of a dinner theatre production of "Joseph" and he has no mimicry skills whatsoever. He pales even more in comparison with FB alum Bryan Batt who managed to give fully rounded performances even without any visuals.The women are both strong. But please! Why have a number about Gwen Verdon who just died? Especially an unfunny one? Christine Pedi may do an incerdible Verdon impression, as she does of Liza, Lupone and Streisand but unless the material is good, so what?Mr. Alessandrini seems stuck in the past. Broadway he has told us over and over through the years is dead. And by gum! he's going to prove it. There are no stars like Ethel Merman. Well it's nice to want to keep the flame alive BUT SHE IS DEAD! Mr. Ed was a tv show during the heyday of the 50s (a decade when Ethel appeared on Broadway) so why not a duet between Mr. Ed and Ethel? (Ok, so he didn't appear on Broadway but that is only because the Weisslers were not producing musicals during his lifetime.)Perhaps the next edition of the show should be solely devoted to performers who are dead. Not whose careers are dead, that would be too large a cast. The biggest problem with the Merman et al fascination is: do many people under 30 really know who she was? Do they really want to shell out $ to hear jokes they do not understand?One wonders how Mr. Allessandrini feels about the success elsewhere many FB alums have had. Chloe Webb of the original cast has had an extraordinary career. Bryan Batt seems to never be out of work. Perhaps not being allowed to play in the sandbox with the big guns he has had to make do in the cat box. But almost 20 years later someone needs to clear the litter. The concept of the show is still sound, it just needs a new voice."
Randy Goldberg | Yonkers, NY, USA | 03/25/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw the stage production of Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey. I agree with the other reviewers who feel that Alessandrini is no longer at the top of his game. Perhaps he should lay off for a year or three and let Broadway present new things for him to lampoon - as it always will.
The opening sequence is forced and unfunny, and clearly in place only to batter the listener with the "2001" theme. Unlike a previous reviewer, I found the Judi Dench parody hysterical, though I question its accuracy.
The "Trouble" parody is, as it always was, incomplete and thin. My dear friend John Kenrick (...) did a better job with it - included the segments of the original song that GA left out, and in a funnier fashion. The Cole Porter parody is marginally amusing, but the Brian Mitchell/Marin Mazzie parody is dead on the mark, and VERY funny.
The parody of Cheryl Ladd remains in the show, although she's no longer in "Annie Get Your Gun" - Reba McIntyre is now in the role. Similarly, he stabs at Alan Cumming, who is no longer playing the Emcee. These numbers, while funny, lack punch. On the other hand, he once again skewers long time target Patti LuPone with an hysterical new parody of Being Alive. I suppose she's innately funnier, after all these years, than Alan Cumming, who is, after all, a relative newcomer.
The Rocky Horror parody is amusing, and the observation that sex has moved off 42nd Street and onto the Broadway stage is not without merit. The Beauty parody is amusing, and apt, but as has already been noted, GA has been clobbering us with the Disnification of Broadway for years now. I suppose he finds some glee in the fading success of this particular show.
I must say that while Gurwin is not the greatest singer, "Sondheim's Blues" is the most brilliant piece I've heard from Alessandrini in years. It's absolutely dead on. The friends I was with had never seen nor heard "Follies" and completely missed the point, but I was in stitches.
The "10 Years More" (which does not appear on this album, but remains in the show) has really begun to wear thin, especially with the closing this year of Cats and Miss Saigon. The Cameron Macintosh British mega-musicals are finally releasing their grip on Broadway, and this isn't as funny any more.
Broadway, despite the naysayers, will never die... and apparently, neither will Forbidden Broadway. I don't think it should - but I do think it needs a rest."