Review: ‘Forbidden Broadway’ Sticks It to the Great Woke Way

Review: ‘Forbidden Broadway’ Sticks It to the Great Woke Way

BRANTLEY Ah, that one pierces Butterworth’s lugubriousness and luridness right in the solar plexus. I also enjoyed Chris Collins-Pisano and Immanuel Houston celebrating (and gently skewering) the new creed of inclusivity by embodying (respectively) Lin-Manuel Miranda and Billy Porter. (“Everyone now has a chance to play Mama Rose,” sings Porter, to the tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”)

GREEN Another reason I liked this edition, which features the tireless Fred Barton at the piano, is that it’s not just an excuse for mockery but also an opportunity for reflection. The idea that Broadway is being passed from old hands to new ones is touchingly addressed in a couple of numbers. One of them imagines three classic divas — Bette Midler (Stern again), Bernadette Peters (Aline Mayagoitia) and Jennifer Holliday (Houston in drag) — singing “There’s Gotta Be Something for Us to Do,” based on the great “Sweet Charity” number. And then there’s the closing sequence, centered on “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along,” which I found unexpectedly moving.

BRANTLEY Yep, I misted up at that point. Alessandrini knows which old songs will forever push a Broadway-phile’s buttons. He takes “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel” and retools it for his current team (which also includes a bona fide next-generation member, the adolescent Joshua Turchin). And he adds a sweet dig to offset the sentimentality, as these performers realize that being in a spoof like this might mean “You’ll Never Work Again.”

GREEN Framing the sequence is the great Broadway director Harold Prince (Collins-Pisano) reimagined as the heavenly Starkeeper from “Carousel.” You could not find a more potent avatar of the world that Alessandrini adores and teases than Prince, who died in July. When the show was over, I wondered whether — new generation or not — Broadway would ever again supply the ripe makings of a new “Forbidden Broadway.”

BRANTLEY Might we let the weary, wily Aunt Testa (that’s Stern as Mary Testa playing Aunt Eller in “Woke-lahoma!”) have the last word? “If ya live long enough,” she says, “you’re going to see some bizarre theater. Hearing beautiful acoustic music played on an electric guitar, seeing Rodgers and Hammerstein staged in a gymnasium, sitting through ‘The Rose Tattoo’ with Marisa Tomei, watching ‘Company’ with a female Bobby … and Patti LuPone.” Bless that ole gal, her crustiness gives me hope.

Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation

Tickets Through Nov. 30 at the Triad Theater, Manhattan; Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes.

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