Civic show delights fans of musical theater
Parodies of songs from big musicals get lots of laughs
I was excited when I found out I was going to get to see Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Forbidden Broadway‘s Greatest Hits.
I’ve always heard how funny Forbidden Broadway is, but I often wondered exactly how knowledgeable about musical theater a person would have to be to enjoy it. You see, Forbidden Broadway is parody. In many ways, Forbidden Broadway does to the musical what Weird Al Yankovic does to pop music: It is parody of the highest order, but you have to know the material being parodied to get the joke.
From my perspective, I apparently knew enough to have a great, great time at this very funny and extremely entertaining show.
Well, if your musical theater knowledge makes you aware of songs from Chicago, Wicked, and Les Misérables, you will really enjoy the show. If you also know Mamma Mia!, Rent, Spamalot, and Hairspray, you will have one of the best times you’ve had in a theater for quite some time. This show is two hours of pure fun.
A musical review like this only works if you have a group of extremely talented performers. Each needs a solo quality voice and a strong sense of how to hit a punch line; and the ability to step into a spotlight by themselves and keep an audience entertained. The Civic has assembled such a cast.
Whether talking about Capri Parrish Williams’ 30-year-old washed-up former Annie, Darren Harrison’s embodiment of musical theater deity Stephen Sondheim, or Gavin Drew’s Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, who opines that the song is just too high, each is fully in command of the audience when it is their turn.
Jessica Butler Harrison amazed me with her uncanny ability to take me to the musical she was parodying. She always reveals that she fully understands the style of the show she is spoofing. She found a way to step into the musical that was being poked fun at in a way that immediately took you to a performance that you had seen of that musical.
The other two performers, AJ Lorenzini and Stephanie Longbrake, were the purest impressionists. My ears were absolutely convinced it was as Barbra Streisand on that stage. And from the opening curtain speech when Lorenzini becomes Phillip Colglazier, to his spot-on rendition of a Mandy Patinkin standard, his ability to do vocal impressions is amazing.
These six performers never let the show drag. There is not a letdown in the two brisk 50-minute acts.
It would be wrong to review this show and not give the following people recognition: Jennifer Buinowski, Emma Humbarger, Pam Lewis, Daniel Meredith, Laurel Van Amerongen. Who are they? Why, the dressers, of course.
In a show like this, the performers work just as hard off stage changing clothes as they do singing and dancing. I would bet each performer had 10 to 12 costumes, and getting in and out of them is an artform which requires well-choreographed changes, an art that these five dressers perfected.
Another shout out goes to Rollie Mains, who I assume from his bio is a professional musician brought in to do the show. The only accompaniment is a grand piano, and Mains makes that piano sing. He understood how to support the performers with his playing, and when given a chance to play on his own, he was magnificent.
So, to sum up, if you love musical theater, if you love strong performances, and if you’re in the mood to smile and laugh, then hit one of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s last three performances of Forbidden Broadway this weekend. It is a show that will have you walking out of the theater with a song in your heart, and a smile on your face!