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Parody Prevails at Carpenter Center

Ken Jacques

Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume 2
Musical Theatre West

Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center
6200 Atherton St., Long Beach
Through April 29, 2012
Reservations: 562.856.1999 Ext. 4
:: musical.org

Musical Theatre West has a steadfast reputation for bringing great talent and crowd-pleasing shows to the LBC, never more evident than with their fantastic run of Man of La Mancha last February. Their follow-up to this grand production, Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits, Volume 2 is a creative, comedic and clever cabaret, simply staged with four actors and a solo piano player. If you are a musical theater buff, this is the show for you, a tongue-in-cheek tour de force that will have you snickering at this roast of a revue.

The franchise that is Forbidden Broadway has been around since the early 1980s, running for 26 years off Broadway and spawning several sequels. Created by Gerard Alessandrini, this popular farce has been a crowd favorite, refreshed periodically to add new Broadway shows to throw barbs at, and this latest installment is no exception. The show does rely heavily on the classics, from Minnelli to Channing, Julie to Ethel, Rivera to Moreno, Goulet and Patinkin. It helps to have some years under your belt, as some of the younger set may not get some of the bits, but what a fun way to get some musical theater education with an added bonus of delicious satire.

Great material a given, what makes this show are the fantastic foursome that perform it: Susanne Blakslee, David Engel, Valerie Fagan, and Larry Rabin, accompanied on piano by Matthew Smedal. Each actor has a cornucopia of talent, and swift feet, as the costume changes done in the wings give new definition to quick change. They pull it off beautifully - miraculously without injury, like great comedians and talented thespians naturally can. All have a gift for parody and impersonation with wonderful timing; many times I felt like I was watching an old Carol Burnett show with Vicki, Carol, Tim, and Harvey.  

Supporting this dream team is a tight and spot-on squad of support and strength: Director William Selby, Lighting and Set Designer Kevin Clowes, Sound Engineer  Scott Steidnger, Costumer Alvin Colt; wardrobed by Monique Ayala, wigged by Anthony Gagliardi, stage managed by John Calder III, assisted by Mary Ritenhour with artistic direction by MTW’s own Steven Glaudini. A shout-out to the backstage dressers too, who needed to be on their toes for this show!

I am not going to give away the bits - go see this show for the farce, the silliness, the entertaining, talented presentation. It will remind you that imitation really is the greatest form of flattery.

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