Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: Forbidden Broadway at the Vaudeville Theatre

Forbidden Broadway
Vaudeville Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 15th September 2014

Do you have a passion for theatre? Have you seen your fair share of musicals? Are you up for a good laugh? If so, have you booked tickets to see Forbidden Broadway?!

Following its successful run at the Menier Chocolate Factory - London's leading off-West End venue - Forbidden Broadway has once again found its way into the West End. Making fun out of London's biggest musicals, the show has been updated to ensure it is as relevant and current as possible. 

Forbidden Broadway features musical sketches based upon the likes of Miss Saigon, Book of Mormon, Once, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Les Mis, Wicked, Phantom, Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia. Shows which have been added to the line-up include Evita, Cats and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Phillip George's production is broken up with nods to some of theatre’s biggest stars including Liza Minnelli, Idina Menzel, Elaine Paige and Angela Lansbury. As Christina Bianco has also joined the cast, it would have been silly not to add a special Kristin Chenoweth section. Bianco's impression is tremendously spot on and provided my personal highlight of the evening.

Gerard Alessandrini's writing is nothing short of smart and witty. As I wrote in my previous review, the observations and jokes are sometimes more accurate than what some critics wrote about these shows in their reviews. Even second time around I found myself howling with laughter when the cast renamed 'Pure Imagination' from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with 'The Show With No Imagination'. 

It's not vital to have seen all of the shows which are spoofed, but it helps to have a rough idea so you can appreciate just how clever this show is. I do love the idea of non-English speaking tourists stumbling into Forbidden Broadway and having no idea what is going on; however, in many ways it's the perfect tourist show - there's no story to follow and the terrific cast ensure there is never a dull or static moment. 

The company consists of West End regulars Anna-Jane Casey and Damian Humbley alongside Australian theatre star Ben Lewis and Broadway performer turned YouTube sensation and cabaret diva Christina Bianco. It's hard to describe just how talented these four performers are; it is nothing short of a privilege to see them share a stage.

Whilst Forbidden Broadway is incredibly fun, it is also incredibly demanding. Each cast member belts out song after song and between numbers are frantically changing in the wings. I can't begin to imagine just how exhausting and draining the show is to perform, yet the cast never fail to give their all. 

Humbley and Lewis both have voices to die for and have particularly strong chemistry together during their Miss Saigon and Book of Mormon numbers. Once again Humbley's unique version of 'Bring Him Home' provided another highlight. Casey's versatility never fails to astound me; last night her rendition of 'Defying Gravity' brought the house down.  I have always been aware that Bianco can belt for her life, but I had no idea just how ridiculous her soprano range is! 

I wasn't sure if I could imagine Forbidden Broadway working in a larger venue, but last night I was proved wrong. If anything the show has improved - the pace is stronger and there are fewer dips. Some sections are absolutely outrageous (particularly the Robert Lindsay and Madalena Alberto numbers) but everyone insists that Forbidden Broadway is written and performed with affection.

I have absolutely fallen in love with this show and recommend it highly. If you are a regular (musical) theatregoer, Forbidden Broadway is simply unmissable.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Forbidden Broadway runs at the Vaudeville Theatre until Saturday 22nd November 2014.
Please visit www.nimaxtheatres.com for further information and tickets. 

Photo Credit: Alastair Muir

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