Forbidden Broadway, performed by students from the Guildford School of Acting, continues at the Performing Arts Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford until 1 April.
Star rating: four stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ✩
Guildford School of Acting’s third-year graduates have themselves a ball with these hilarious spoofs on pillars of musical theatre society in a show so slick it simply whizzes by and seems over before it had begun.
All the usual targets are there, Les Mis, Cats, Wicked, Phantom, Minnelli, Merman, Streisand, Channing, Sondheim, Annie, Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, Spamalot and plenty more.
Forbidden Broadway has been a huge success ever since Gerard Alessandrini wrote the first version in 1982 since when the originator has updated his creation a dozen times and more.
We had a Menier-West End revival of it in 2014, a more topical edition with Mormon and Matilda among the lampooned. All told, there have been more than 9,000 Forbidden Broadway performances across the globe.
The GSA has been chosen as the first British company to present Forbidden Broadway since its West End run and the performers make the very most of the opportunity.
Nobody who’s been anybody is spared – we even have the two sides of the audience competing against each other over ‘Into the Words’ with the parodied Sondheim lyrics in all their verbosity on a sing-along board.
Brilliantly choreographed and costumed, it is a mass of spot-on impersonations and joyous dance routines by a stage spilling over with extravagantly talented students.
Sam Wyn-Morris, taking off famous Jean Valjeans, ranging from the first one (Colm Wilkinson) to the movie version’s Hugh Jackman, has them all down to a T.
Mari McGinlay is a wickedly accurate Liza Minnelli; Nicola Espallardo deals perfectly with Fantine and Streisand, two roles that can hardly be more different; and Tara Lucas’ ginger-topped Annie is a sight for sore eyes.
Many of the youthful cast and audience won’t have known much about the West Side Story Latino rivalry between Chita Rivera (who invented firebrand Anita on Broadway) and Rita Moreno (who got the Oscar for it).
Yet with Ana Cardoso and Laura White pulling out all the stops, the sparks still fly 60 years down the line.
This is very much a team game and there’s not room to give a shout-out to every member of a cast of 23. They can all take a bow, going out into the cut-throat world of auditions and knockbacks, knowing they have made great starts to their careers.
Director and choreographer Kenn Oldfield makes a fabulous job of maintaining pace in a revue that depends on speed for maximum effect. The seamless transition of one show into another is often breathtaking and Charles Ingles’ piano is all the accompaniment that is needed.
One slight nitpick would be to take extra care with the words. Remember that in this instance the audience know the shows and the songs. What will be new to them are the lampooned lyrics. Lose a punchline, lose a laugh.
This is highly-polished Entertainment with a capital E, and a credit to all concerned.
Readers may also be interested in:
Guildford School of Acting – Guys and Dolls – Review