There are, in the main, two types of people in the audience for Forbidden Broadway. There’s your devotees who preach evangelically about this Broadway legend and the previous times it has come to the UK, the ones who laugh in anticipation of the jokes that they probably know already, and then there’s the more regular folk who might find themselves just a little turned off by the smugness of a show that is essentially one big inside joke.
Gerard Alessandri’s original concept, augmented here with additional material from Phillip George, is indubitably a classic – making viciously biting fun of the biggest shows to hit (and miss) our stages such as Once, Les Mis, The Book of Mormon etc and this iteration of the show has its West End-specific references too, The Pajama Game and Charlie and Chocolate Factory come in for a hammering here, there is indeed much to laugh at.
Yet for all the claims that you don’t need to know the shows to get the jokes, there’s no escaping the fact that you need to be deeply versed in the world of musical theatre to stand a fighting chance here. Perhaps I needed a second viewing, or a lyric sheet, but I was struggling at points to work it all out, the show just didn’t connect as firmly with my funny bone as much as I had hoped it might so heaven knows how people who haven’t seen the shows in question found it all.
Perhaps a shorter running time (and cheaper tickets) would have eased the pain a little, though I do exaggerate, as it was still good fun, even if not the hysterical hoot I had been led to believe. The cast of four are well-drilled (Anna-Jane Casey – long term readers will not be surprised to know I still can’t look at her without a faint sheen of disgust), Sophie-Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis) and rip through some brilliantly conceived costumery. It will be interesting to see how it fares with its West End transfer though.