Theatre / Forbidden Broadway
So come with us on an omnibus
To a theatre-goers' soiree
To that Neverland where the hits get panned
-Volume 1 Opening Theme
is a parody revue show written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini that originally ran off-Broadway from 1982 to 2009. The early incarnations of the show spoofed musicals from the Golden Age and iconic performers like Ethel Merman and Carol Channing, but the format was quickly adapted to pastiche
works in the current Broadway season. As the revue gained reputation, it became a point of honor
in the theatre community to have one's work parodied by Forbidden Broadway
; as New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley wrote in his review of the 2000 edition: "such a detailed evisceration happens to be the highest compliment you can give a musical star. It means that there is something there to parody."Forbidden Broadway
is typically performed by a cast of two men and two women with piano accompaniment. The show went on hiatus in 2009, but returned to turning out new editions off-Broadway in the summer of 2012. It's also toured the U.S., has yielded two spinoffs, and even made a few trips overseas. A spinoff of sorts entitled Spamilton, a parody of Hamilton
, opened in 2016.
- The Abridged Series: Predating even The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
- Actor Allusion: Many, especially musical references to the careers of pop singers appearing in musicals. For example:
- In "I Ham What I Ham", George Hearn fastens a bracelet around his arm and shouts, "At last, my arm is complete again!" (Hearn replaced Len Cariou in the title role in the original production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.)
- When Blood Brothers's Broadway run featured David Cassidy and Petula Clark in leading roles, their 1960s hits "I Think I Love You" and "Downtown" became "I Think I'm Acting" and "Downshow."
- The parody of the 1996 Broadway revival of The King and I had Donna Murphy playing Anna as her previous character of Fosca from Passion (which closed too quickly to parody on its own).
- The parody of the 2012 Broadway revival of Evita had Ricky Martin singing (what else?) "Livin' Evita Loca".
- Adolf Hitlarious: In Comes Out Swinging and the 2014 London edition, Cabaret is crossed over with an attack on the increasing number of musicals having corporate backing/sponsorship with "Broadway Belongs to Me", in which executives take the place of Nazis and corporate logos (Disney, Warner Bros., etc.) take the place of the swastikas!
- Affectionate Parody: Alessandrini has great affection for the theatre in general, and some performers/composers/playwrights in particular. On the other hand, some genres (e.g. jukebox musicals) and individuals are mocked without mercy or affection.
- The Alcoholic: "I Wonder What the King is Drinking Tonight" mocked Richard Burton's drinking problems at the time of his Role Reprisal in the 1980 revival of Camelot.
- Bad "Bad Acting": David Mamet tries to teach Madonna how to act in Speed-the-Plow, and doesn't make much headway: "I strain in vain to train Madonna's brain."
- Best Known for the Fanservice: Invoked in "Let Me Enter Naked," where Daniel Radcliffe explains that girls flock to Equus because "Harry Potter naked makes this ol' creaky play sublime."
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: As always, but in particular the act of hanging a lampshade on the lampshading in "The Song That Goes Like This" from Spamalot, owing to the tendency of post-millenial musical comedies to poke fun at musical conventions and styles — generally, "real" musicals didn't do that when this revue launched.
- Brainless Beauty: John Davidson, as mocked for his State Fair performance in "Oh, What A Beautiful Moron."
- Camp: "You Can't Stop the Camp" mocks Hairspray, Xanadu, and similar shows.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Parody: The 2014 London edition spoofs the 2013 stage musical adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — which incorporates the most famous song from the 1971 film version, "Pure Imagination", into an otherwise new song score — with "No Imagination". Gags include West End musical stalwart Elaine Paige turning up as an Oompa-Loompa (see Height Angst below for more on her), a malfunctioning Great Glass Elevator, and an unflattering comparison with Matilda (another Roald Dahl adaptation).
- City Shout Outs: In "Ambition" (a spoof of "Tradition"), there's a line that on the cast album goes, "But here in our little village of Manhattan, there are over 50,000 actors, all trying their best not to end up in Baltimore." When on tour, "Baltimore" usually gets changed to the town they are perfroming in.
- Cover Version: Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin's covers of showtunes are the subject of several parodies.
- Dramatic Unmask: Andrew Lloyd Webber, the "Phantom of the Musical," is revealed to be Mickey Mouse when Sarah Brightman rips off his mask.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The parody of Aspects of Love, "I Sleep With Everyone."
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: The flying monkeys from Wicked make a special appearance in "Please Don't Monkey With Broadway".
- Fake Cross Over: Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit opens with versions of Jerry Orbach and B. D. Wong on the case, as both were Broadway and Law & Order stars.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: The sing-along of "Into the Words" has Stephen Sondheim telling the audience to "follow the bouncing razor."
- Former Child Star:
I'm forty years old
And I haven't worked since I played Annie
When I was ten...
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: In "The Boy Who's Odd", they imagine Hugh Jackman saying this (almost verbatim) when invited to host the Tony Awards.
- Height Angst: Elaine Paige as Norma Desmond (in Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back):
Zoe: I won't have a word said against her. But a three-foot Norma Desmond? I ask you...
Elaine: I'm not small! It's the sets that got bigger!
- Incredibly Long Note: In their take on "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime:
We'll sing till the rafters ring
And emote till we overbloat
And then this song, this song will end
With a really long nooooooooooooooooooooooote!
- Intercontinuity Crossover: Sometimes they make a bit of sense, like Grand Hotel and The Sound of Music both getting crossed with Cabaret since all three are set in 1930s Germany/Austria, or Matilda and Billy Elliot's child actors lamenting that they're "Exploited Children". Sometimes they just pair up things that were running in the same Broadway season, like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Doubt.
- Intercourse with You: "Shall We Boink?", with Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips trying to make The King and I Hotter and Sexier.
- "I Want" Song: "Ambition" takes "Tradition" and turns it into an anthem for the struggling actor.
- Limey Goes to Hollywood: Discussed in the Judi Dench number, "Why Can't Americans Do Theater Like The Brits?"
- Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "One Day More" from Les Misérables is the definitive straight example of the trope. Forbidden Broadway takes it on with just four actors in "Ten Years More" to hilarious results.
- Medium Awareness
- Misery Poker: The parody of "It Sucks To Be Me" from Avenue Q has as its contestants Brooke Shields (subbing for Donna Murphy in a Wonderful Town revival), Tom Hewitt (starring in Dracula: The Musical), Stephen Schwartz (always snubbed for the Tony for Best Original Score) and a Japanese Tourist (who sees all the sucky shows New York City has to offer).
- Musical Pastiche
- Mythology Gag: Former Forbidden Broadway cast member Tom Plotkin gets specifically mentioned by name in their parody of Footloose.
- Painted-On Pants: The RENT parody includes a song called "Ouch, They're Tight!"
- Parody Names: Frequently applied to show titles ("Grand Hotel? Grand Hotel? No, this is the Grim Hotel"), but very rarely applied to characters ("Rafreaky" being one exception), and never to actors.
- Race Lift: Equity president Colleen Dewhurst, who protested the casting of Jonathan Pryce in Miss Saigon (and, unfortunately for the parody, died not that many months later), was played by African-American actress Mary Denise Bentley.
"In order to protest Cameron Mackintosh bringing Jonathan Pryce over from London to play this role, I have now become black."
- Rage Against the Author: "Forbidden Assassins" has John Hinkley and Squeaky Fromme aiming their guns at Stephen Sondheim for writing music and lyrics too difficult for them to perform.
- Reading Ahead in the Script: The characters of the RENT parody read ahead in the script for La Bohème to see what they should do next. It isn't that much help, since "This Ain't Bohème."
- Royalties Heir: From Rude Awakening's goof on the short-lived Jukebox Musical Lennon:
: Yoko Ono? What the Sam Hill are you doing on Broadway? Yoko
: Collecting royalties. You see, every 1960s rock-and-roller had a wife, and every wife now holds the music rights.
- Sincerest Form of Flattery: The real Carol Channing appears on Volume 3 to get a little advice on her Carol Channing impersonation.
- Small Name, Big Ego: From "The Book of Morons":
"...and I believe that ancient Jews like Richard Rodgers didn't write very good musicals."
- Spinoff: Forbidden Hollywood in The '90s and Forbidden Vegas at the Turn of the Millennium.
- Strange-Syntax Speaker: Mag in "How Are Things in Irish Drama?" (Finian's Rainbow's "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"), the parody of Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenan:
Mag: It's an old crone I'm getting to be, Maureen, an old crone...
Maureen: Stop reversing your syntax, you hateful cow! You'd try the patience of a saint!
- Straw Critic: Ben Brantley from the New York Times destroys the car in Ragtime with what he calls "a little review from the boys down at the office."
- Surprise Incest: Subverted in the parody of Spring Awakening:
Mother: Oh, God! What have you done!
Wendla and Melchior: Mother! (To each other.) That's my mother, not yours. Stop doing that! (To Mother.) Mother!
Mother: Actually, I am both of your mothers.
Wendla and Melchior: Both? But that would mean... eeew!
Mother: Let me explain. In some scenes, I am Melchior's mother, and in others, I am Wendla's. I also play a piano teacher, and when I wear this hat, I'm Frau Knuppledick. Four different characters, all wearing the same dress.
- Take That!: Far too many to count, really, but include:
- "Stop Cats! A Chorus Cat" bewails the indignity of Cats overtaking A Chorus Line as the longest-running Broadway musical.
- The show has a low, low opinion of Jersey Boys, mocking the high-pitched singing ("Walk like a man/Sing like a girl"), deriding the excessive narration ("by simply narrating 89% of this show, we can tell three times as much of the ordinary backstage story, and throw in more unrelated pop songs than Mamma Mia!"), and calling it overproduced pop trash that steals from actual Broadway.
- It holds Jukebox musicals in universal contempt: "Oh, what a terrible genre, oh what a terrible blight. Beach Boys and Beatles on Broadway, tormentin' folks every night."
- Disney gets more than a few of these in Rude Awakening with regards to Mary Poppins and The Little Mermaid.
- Not only is Spamalot accused of ripping off Forbidden Broadway, the spoof also calls Monty Python fans annoying.
- As with the Adolf Hitlarious bit in Comes Out Swinging, the earlier edition Rude Awakening compares the increasing corporate sponsorship of Broadway with Nazification.
- Aspects of Love is summarized (to the tune of 'Love changes everything') as "I sleep with everyone...and if you're in the audience, then you'll sleep too!"
- Jekyll & Hyde is described as "not quite as good [as Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera] but just as long and dimly lit" and its music is "perfect for people who find Andrew Lloyd Webber's music too challenging!"
- The In the Heights parody calls it "a contemporary West Side Story, full of Latinos, but not as good or gory". Prior to that, Lin-Manuel Miranda admits he can't act, and that his raps overwhelm viewers with exposition.
- That's All, Folks!: Every version of the show ends with one of these, some longer than others.
- Transsexual: Given as the reason why Lauren Bacall is "one of the girls who sings like a boy."
- The Triple: From Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab:
- Trouser Space: In the Spring Awakening parody, Melchior unzips his fly and pulls out a microphone.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Inverted in "I Couldn't Hit The Note" (pastiche of "I Could Have Danced All Night"). Spoofing how Julie Andrews couldn't hit high notes anymore, the song keeps modulating down. This became Harsher in Hindsight when Forbidden Broadway continued to perform the number after Andrews lost most of her range in a botched throat surgery.
- We Didn't Start the Billy Joel Parodies: Shockingly averted. The Movin' Out spoof used "My Life" instead.
- We Used to Be Friends: Wicked co-stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel are not only both "Popular" but bestest friends until Idina wins the Tony Award for Best Actress, after which Idina decides she's gonna try defying Chenoweth.