- This event has passed.
Sep 18, 2009 - Oct 4, 2009
By Gerard Alesandrini
Iowa Premiere Production
Sept. 18–Oct. 4 2009
After 27 record-breaking years in New York, the award-winning, crowd-pleasing musical revue is sweeping America! It’s the hilarious, loving and endlessly entertaining tribute to some of the theater’s greatest stars and songwriters. A smart and irreverent satire that lampoons and lambastes iconic musical legends. Experience Les Miserables, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Hairspray, Mamma Mia, Chicago, Wicked and many more all-time musical favorites, as you never imagined before!
Director/Choreographer – Karla Kash
Music Director – Paul Dieke
Assistant Music Director – Philip King
Production Stage Manager – Kiley Fattor
Scenic Designer – Casey Gradischnig
Lighting Designer – Ron Gilbert
Costume Designer – Emily Ganfield
Costume Assistant – Marnie Strate
Properties Designer – Joy Kripal
Wigs/Makeup Designers – Cindy Hummel/La ‘James International School
Accompanist – Ben Hagen
THE DES MOINES REGISTER REVIEW
BY MICHAEL MORAIN
September 22, 2009
Giant green posters on the north wall and main entrance of the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines trumpet the arrival of “Wicked” later this week.
But there’s mischief brewing just around the corner, in the center’s Stoner Theater, where StageWest’s production of “Forbidden Broadway” runs through Oct. 4. The rowdy musical revue, directed by Karla Kash, pokes fun at some of the very shows that will parade across the main stage this season, including “Rent” and a certain song-and-dance extravaganza about a certain high-flying, green-skinned witch.
In the deliberately low-budget “Forbidden” version, she grabs a broom and crawls up on a milk crate, her cape billowing in the wind from an electric fan. The scene is funny enough on paper, in the script by Gerard Allessandrini, but it gets a big boost on stage by the booming vocal talent and aerobic endurance of the cast. The four local actors manage to sing and dance and change costumes and fling themselves across the stage for two hours, skewering some of the best – and worst – of more than 20 Broadway hits.
Amy Burgmaier, who plays the witch, plays Annie, too, with a red Afro, a cigarette and a markedly grumpier attitude for “(I’m 30 years old) Tomorrow.” She also gives the old razzle-dazzle to a tune from “Chicago,” the show in which she starred four years ago at the Des Moines Playhouse.
Liz Ward channels Carol Channing, with a deep raspy voice and a mouth as big as a mule’s. She’s just as brassy later as Ethel Merman, who does a soft-shoe routine with the Phantom of the Opera, and as Liza Minelli, who careens around the stage in a drug-induced fit. (It’s wicked, with a lower-case “w” – and hilarious.)
The roles for the show’s two men, Craig Petersen and Eric Shepard, aren’t quite as juicy, but the actors make the most of their turns in the spotlight. Petersen lays it on thick as Mandy Patinkin, with an extravagantly high falsetto, and Shepard stretches out on the floor as one of the “Cats,” luxuriating in the peculiar thrill of his fur-lined body-stocking.
Through it all, the unflappable Ben Hagen accompanies the action from the piano, switching from “Les Misérables” to “Mamma Mia!” without missing a beat. His skill, with music direction by Paul Dieke, elevates the show from an extended “Saturday Night Live”-style skit into an actual concert.
“Forbidden Broadway” first opened in 1982 in New York and ran continuously until March of this year. It employed more than 2,000 actors over the years, including before-they-were-famous Denzel Washington, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. The actors they skewered occasionally showed up in the audience, but they were good sports; nobody sued.
SAVOR THE SWEET TASTE OF ‘FORBIDDEN’ FRUIT
A theatre review by John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Des Moines, Iowa Finally, Greater Des Moines can experience what decades of Big Apple Broadway fans have gorged themselves on: Forbidden Broadway. This is a show packed with delectably acerbic low-hanging fruit which can be enjoyed by all, and truly savored by those familiar with the Broadway shows which comprise this fulfilling feast. However, enough of the consumable quips, lest I flow into Biblical references.
There are times when necessity leaps into livelihood, and such was the case when unemployed actor, Gerard Alessandrini, wanted to showcase his talents in 1982. Doing what virtually anyone who has performed musical theatre has imagined and even done – parodying Broadway shows – he assembled his musical parodies of Broadway shows he loved and loathed into a nightclub act. Critics and audiences were wowed, and it has since become New York’s longest running musical comedy revue. Forbidden Broadway has won Drama Desk, Obie and Outer Critics Circle awards. It has grown to the point where if a star or cast isn’t lampooned, it’s reverse rejection. Ah, how America loves lampooning, especially when honed to razor-wit sharpness.
StageWest showcases the sterling abilities of a gifted quartet of multi-talented performers in its season-opening production of Forbidden. Eric Shepard, Liz Ward, Craig Petersen, and Amy Burgmaier quickly whisk us into the warped and witty world of skewed characters, stars and scenes that Forbidden presents. Limber your laugh muscles before attending this show, because they will get a hearty workout!
As the official Web site boasts, Forbidden is all about poking, prodding, teasing, pleasing, jeering and cheering, but always with love. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll most assuredly grin and guffaw your way through the variety of shows parodied with a raucous reality and enthusiasm. From older standards (Hello, Dolly!, Annie and Les Miserables) to current shows (Wicked and Rent), these performers know there stuff, and deliver many knock-out performances during the evening.
While difficult to find highlights in a show filled with them, some favorites stand out in this reviewer’s mind. The image of Burgmaier complete with white-collared, red dress, red curly hair and cigarette hanging from her lips will be forever burned in many minds, as a way-over-the-hill Annie bemoans turning thirty. In another scene, Petersen’s voice soars into the stratosphere as Mandy Patinkin, then later when featured in a cut from Spamalot. Newcomer Shepard exudes feline dexterity during his number from Cats. And, the chameleon-esque Ward morphs from Carol Channing to Liza Minnelli to other fantastic, unique persona, belting with a Broadway power that reflects her probable destination.
Director/Choreographer Karla Kash assembled this marvelous cast, pushing them through a quick-paced show that especially challenges the cast and crew with its lightening fast costume changes. Kash fills the song and stage with movement evoking the specters of these Broadway shows, and her cast delivers some wonderful physicality in their work. Venerable Music Director Paul Dieke notches another fine show for his continually expanding career, undoubtedly pushing his cast to reach and push to achieve the 100% commitment this type of show demands.
One of the under-sung heroes is rehearsal and performance pianist Ben Hagen, listed under the cast bios, but not under the company recognition page of the playbill. Hagen keeps the music on pace, even with occasional rushing of tempos by the ensemble. All quickly returns to sync thanks to his firm musical guidance. Also deserving recognition are Scenic Designer Casey L. Gradischnig, Lighting Designer Ron Gilbert, Costume Designer Emily Ganfield, Properties Designer Joy Kripal,and Wig Stylist extraordinaire Cindy Hummel. This team wraps the show up in a wonderful visual package.
StageWest’s Forbidden Broadway is one of the most dynamic and talent-laden productions to be seen in this region for some time. Get your ticket now, for, as Mark Twain once said, “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.” Absolutely, soulfully and decadently delicious!