Comic relief ought to be in much demand these days. The Playhouse at Westport Plaza is trying to ease the pain with its current offering Forbidden Broadway. The show began in 1982 as a revue playing a club in New York, featuring parodies of various musicals. It’s been updated a dozen times since then, utilizing both classic and newer shows.
Westport audiences often aren’t frequent theater-goers, and whether something like this would work for them was an interesting challenge. They do like to laugh – a lot – so that gave the presenters a head start. Four performers and their musical director/pianist Catherine Stornetta work on an empty stage with fixed lighting, bare bones despite the sparkly Mylar curtain behind them. Fast costume changes and a series of props help to flesh things out. There were a few problems with sound opening night, but that was fixed very quickly without losing too many lines.
Some of the shows were old warhorses, like Les Miserables, which had jokes about being on tour until the end of time, and other shows more contemporary, like the Irish musical Once. Lines and lyrics fly thick and fast. Some were indeed only for theater buffs – does the average attendee (one site says 80 million of them) at Lion King know who Julie Taymor is? But mostly people were having fun.
The performers, Valerie Fagan, Kevin B McGlynn, Jeanne Montano and William Selby, certainly were, including what really seemed to be unscripted breaking up at a funny ad lib. Things are so casual it wasn’t off-putting at all. A particular tip of the hat to Fagan, shown here, who blows the roof off with a near-perfect Ethel Merman singing “You’re Just In Love” from the 1950 show Call Me Madam. This after she enters complaining about singers who can’t be heard without a microphone. Merman, of course, was one of the original belters, singers whose voice resounded naturally.
A fairly short evening, less than two hours, the bonhomie aided by being able to take drinks into the theater.
through November 13
Playhouse at Westport Plaza