Sep 6, 2012

[Theater] Forbidden Broadway (Upstart Productions)

It's interesting how theater options within Metro Manila continue to expand as more and more theater companies seem to be stepping up to the plate as they attempt to stage bigger and better productions. And while I respect original works and such, it's still quite the experience to have local talent try to bring some of the best and brightest shows of Broadway here to Manila.

Now I've always been curious about Forbidden Broadway given how it's far to easy to stumble upon its various songs while searching for the music of your favorite plays. The show has spoofed so many other different musicals that they often blur the lines between search results, thus generating both interest and confusion.

Sadly, I had missed the first run of Forbidden Broadway earlier this year because of other commitments. I'm only one geek and I can only cover so many theater productions and movies at one time. But thankfully Upstart saw it worthwhile to stage a very limited repeat run that fit right into my pre-birthday weekend plans.

Synopsis: Forbidden Broadway is a satirical / parody play created by Gerald Alessandrini. Since 1981, various iterations of the show have amused theater audiences year over year and they have made consistent efforts to continually update the material as new shows are released. I can't determine what version of the show Upstart Productions ran but the first run ran from May 11-27, 2012 and the repeat run ran from August 24-25, 2012 at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

Now the show runs like a musical revue as you go from play to play with one song after another with the four players dressing up in various costumes in order to make it clear which production or even which Broadway star is being feartured, ridiculed and picked on. The humor of the show relies heavily one your knowledge of musical theater in general and so this isn't quite the kind of show that you'd bring a Broadway newbie to.

The Upstart team was certainly a fun mix of quirky characters. I particularly loved the various performances by Liesl Batucan. I think she did the best job in terms of capturing the various accents involved as they represented various actresses from the various shows. Caisa Borromeo was funny in her own right, but Liesl was clearly the stronger actress from a comedic perspective. Lorenz Martinez had a quirky, almost Nathan Lane like vibe in many of his numbers and he certainly knew how to make the most of his times onstage to get the most laughs. And to round up the cast, OJ Mariano was also funny in his own right and a lot better at physical comedy than I had expected.

The show featured a variety of hilarious performances meant to poke fun at some of the most popular shows on Broadway. For example, their number "Into the Words" is all about the complexity of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics despite how sometimes his music can be less than creative. And while I'm a big Sondheim fan, even I had to laugh at what they had accomplished in that number. Plus a really fun singalong portion complete with a bouncing barber's blade!

And yes, they had quite a number of songs dedicated to Les Miserables that made fun of everything from the nature of the stories of shows at the time to how much shows have come to rely on merchandising to keep shows profitable. And I don't think I'll stop laughing after watching them spin around in a circle over and over again to simulate the various moving stages used in the bigger Broadway shows.

To be fair, not all numbers went well with the audience. I think the numbers that got the least reactions included those poking fun at Carol Channing and her never ending runs of Hello Dolly and the one involving Mandy Patinkin's weird Broadway revue. I'm not sure if a lot of folks recognized Ethel Merman when she came on stage (plus the fact the actress was a lot skinnier), but her signature belting style was pretty hilarious in contrast to how The Phantom of the Opera is performed. But you can't win them all, I suppose. It was all still pretty funny to me.

And that's what makes this show great - the whole production is actually one long roast of the entire Broadway scene. And thus you need to be ready for this sort of tongue-in-cheek humor that comes with satirical pieces like this one.

On the whole, Forbidden Broadway made for quite the enjoyable afternoon for me and I'm certainly looking forward to future shows stages by Upstart Productions in the months to come. As for this performance I happily rate it as 4 jokes made at the expense of Andrew Llyod Webber out of a possible 5.
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