The 30th year and the 19th edition of Forbidden Broadway has been inducing cackles of gratifying laughter from Off-Broadway audiences since the musical satire reopened in September after a three-year hiatus from the boards. If you haven’t read any of the press on this Forbidden Broadway (do you live under a brick?), and if you’re sitting there and thinking to yourself, Gee, Self, this is probably a great deal of the same satire that Forbidden Broadway cranks out, you’d be absolutely right and you’d be absolutely wrong. In our opinion, the show, while loving the theatre world as much as it ever has, is also far more pungent and a hair more savage and somewhat more unforgiving — and a lot, therefore, funnier, which is really saying something. It’s as if creator Gerard Alessandrini (who co-directs with Philip George) was more than restored by his sabbatical, he was revived, resussitated, recharged.
In fact, a few skits — well, at least the one focusing on what’s left of Bernadette Peters’ voice — do start to cross a line. That said, we here at the Clyde Fitch Report took an informal poll of audience attendees and industry colleagues and the verdict appears to be that Forbidden Broadway is no more haughty or naughty or not-so-nice than it was before. So, sorry, Bernadette. Maybe your high notes do sound like sandpaper these days. Yikes.
Meanwhile, if this version of Forbidden Broadway is a depth-charge of gleeful Great White Way-skewering, the new cast is, without question, one of the most game and versatile that FB has ever seen. For purposes of this post, let’s focus on actor Scott Richard Foster, whose Steve Kazee (of Once fame and a 2012 Tony Award), sits in this whimsical wheelhouse almost too perfectly. Watch Foster, as Kazee, tirelessly scrunch up his face into a look of constipation — er, constipation and angst, more angst, a lot of angst, serious angst, severe angst, sensitive angst, colossal angst, monumental angst, nagging angst, cornering the market on angst, and then poured, with sugar, into Kazee’s look-how-good-I-look-in-my-tight-jeans-ness. And then watch how the audience goes from a minor trickle of titters and giggles into a gush of full-throated muah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah, and then some. Foster’s work on the show is pure joy.
Indeed, that Foster can, seemingly on a dime, transform into the Stacee Jaxx character from Rock of Ages or the hearthrob Jeremy Jordan from Newsies is a bonus. That is to say that Foster, and all the actors, deserve one.
So, see Forbidden Broadway, running at the 47th Street Theatre (304 W. 47th St.).
And now, 5 questions Scott Richard Foster has never been asked — and a bonus question (or two):
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
A woman asked me after a show once, “Do you have ADD? The energy you have up there is unbelievable!” I thought that was very perceptive, because I do have ADD…case in point, I forgot where I was going with this thought.
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
Someone asked me after the show one night, “Have you ever considered doing actual Broadway?” Good times.
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about your work?
When I was playing the Prince in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, I was asked: “Has anyone ever told you that you remind them of David Faustino (Bud Bundy) in Married With Children?” Now, it was said to me as if he was complimenting me — that my portrayal of the prince in Cinderella reminded them of Bud Bundy. Thanks, guy.
4) You’ve just been cast in Forbidden Broadway. Is all the material written? Is your life upended? Are you suddenly nervous you’ll be faced with some nugget of theatre arcana and you won’t get the joke? What goes through your mind?
Honestly, the show came at the perfect time for me. Just coming back from a tour and having our second child, I was extremely excited to be part of this franchise, and to have a job! When the rehearsals began, it seemed like a whirlwind of learning material, trying stuff out for new sketches, adjusting, and trying again until we got what we thought would be the funniest way to do it — which is tough without an audience, so the question that came up a good bit was, “Do I think it’s funny?” Sometimes you just don’t know until an audience spells out for you what is going to work and what is a dud. The material was being written and rewritten as we were going, in order to try and write to our strengths. So, in a way, yes, your life is a little upended in that it became all you could think about for a while. Then it calmed down a little right up until we started working with the costumes — and then, craziness again. And then, about the time you say to yourself, “I’ll be ready in another two weeks,” it’s time for an audience. It’s a good lesson in letting go of the fear of being funny, because during the experimental stage there were times you’d bomb and times you’d kill. All in all, it has definitely been an incredibly fun ride thus far!
5) Which character is the biggest stretch for you as an actor, and which could you do even if someone gave you a cue while you were stone-cold asleep on Ambien?
Anjelica Huston is probably the hardest. Now, mind you, I am only on stage for about 10 seconds as her, but the prep work for that costume…wow. The real challenge, though, is that I make a truly hideous woman. And I only have so much time to change into this costume that, by the way, comes complete with fake boobs and jewelry that my face just usually ends up looking like a big ol’ hot mess! Anjelica got the shaft on this one, cause there’s just no way it was going to come out good for her. Sorry.
The easiest character would probably be Steve Kazee in the Once spoof. It’s just pure silliness, the entire sketch. It’s simply what I love to do, so getting into that character is quite easy.
6) What kind of character or skit is not in the current version of Forbidden Broadway that you really think Gerard Alessandrini should write (and have you told him)?
Well, just the idea that there is Rocky: The Musical in the works makes me want to spoof it. But currently, I would love to spoof the Les Miz movie! Gerard, I think, agrees, but the trouble is coming up with a new angle, since they’ve so brilliantly spoofed it before.
Extra Bonus Question:
7) Do you think this edition of Forbidden Broadway is too mean? If no — and if my name was Bernadette Peters — would your answer still be no?
Definitely not too mean. We all love musical theatre here! I think you have to be able to laugh at yourself in life, anyway…hopefully Bernadette feels the same way. At any rate, I’m not in that sketch so I got nothing to worry about! I briefly talked to Steve Kazee about spoofing him and said he considered it an honor. I totally agree. If I ever get spoofed by FB, I’ll know I’ve really made it!