Set from Menier Chocolate Factory production in 2009
Forbidden Broadway is an Off-Broadway revue parodying musical theatre, particularly Broadway musicals. It was conceived, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini. The original version of the revue opened on January 15, 1982 at Palsson's Supper Club in New York City and ran for 2,332 performances. Alessandrini has rewritten the show over a dozen times over the years to include parodies of newer shows. In the original iteration of the show, Alessandrini was one of the original actors. Michael Chapman directed and produced. In April 1982, Chloe Webb joined the cast, and Jeff Martin succeeded Chapman as director. Alessandrini assumed the directing position subsequently, with Phillip George, Alessandrini's long-time collaborator, co-directing all of the editions of the revue since 2004.
The show, in its various editions, has received over 9,000 performances and been seen in more than 200 U.S. cities as well as playing in London, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney.
The show is a cabaret revue sharply spoofing show tunes, characters and plots of contemporary and current Broadway musicals. Forbidden Broadway has mocked popular shows like The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Les Misérables, The Lion King, Spamalot, Annie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Rent, to name a few. It also targets famous Broadway actors, writers, composers, directors, choreographers and producers, including Julie Andrews, Mel Brooks, Carol Channing, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Crawford, Harvey Fierstein, Bob Fosse, Whoopi Goldberg, Robert Goulet, Jerry Herman, Dustin Hoffman, Elton John, Angela Lansbury, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Patti LuPone, Cameron Mackintosh, Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Liza Minnelli, Rita Moreno, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Stephen Sondheim, Barbra Streisand, Julie Taymor and Gwen Verdon.
Forbidden Broadway is a four-person show, with two men, two women and piano accompaniment. Forbidden Broadway has released eleven albums, as well as one entitled Forbidden Hollywood, a cast album of the show of the same title by Alessandrini. Like Forbidden Broadway, Forbidden Hollywood is made up of parodies, except that it targets movies rather than musicals. The New York and Los Angeles based companies of both "Forbidden" incarnations have served as a workshop for rising talent to hone their skills. Alumni include Jason Alexander, Brad Oscar, Christine Pedi, Bryan Batt, Michael McGrath, Chloe Webb, Barbara Walsh, Ann Morrison, William Selby and many more.
In 2006, the show and Alessandrini were awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre. It has been nominated five times for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue, winning three times (2001, 2005 and 2008). It also won Drama Desk Special Awards in 1985 and 2009. The final incarnation, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab, ended its run at the 47th Street Theatre in New York on March 1, 2009, 27 years after the first version of the revue premiered. In 2009 a book of "Best of" lyrics and the show's history was published under the title "Forbidden Broadway: Behind The Mylar Curtain."
The show, in its various editions through 2009, received over 9,000 performances and been seen in more than 200 U.S. cities as well as playing in London, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney. A 2009 review of the London production, in Britain's The Independent, commented: "Actors have always poked fun at the foibles of commercial theatre. ... Usually, though, they keep their parodies to themselves. It takes a touch of genius to turn them into something saleable, but writer Gerald Alessandrini has that Midas touch." The original artwork advertising the show was designed by caricaturist Ken Fallin, who suggested the actors find the name "Nina" written on their bodies as an homage to Al Hirschfeld, who was known for working his daughter's name into his drawings.
A new version of the show, Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! opened in 2012 and is scheduled to close in 2013.
Editions of Forbidden Broadway
- Forbidden Broadway (May 4, 1982 – August 30, 1987)
- Forbidden Broadway 1988/1989 (September 15, 1988 – December 24, 1989)
- Forbidden Broadway 1990 (January 23, 1990 – June 9, 1991)
- Forbidden Broadway 1991½ (June 20, 1991 – January 12, 1992)
- Forbidden Broadway 1992 (April 6, 1992 – November 30, 1992)
- Forbidden Broadway Featuring Forbidden Christmas (December 1, 1992 – December 27, 1992)
- Forbidden Broadway 1993 (January 12, 1993 – September 19, 1993)
- Forbidden Broadway 1994 (November 11, 1993 – January 2, 1994)
- Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back (October 17, 1996 – September 20, 1998) (won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics; nominated as Outstanding Revue)
- Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act (November 17, 1998 – August 30, 2000) (nominated for Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue)
- Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey (December 6, 2000 – 2001) (won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue)
- Forbidden Broadway 20th Anniversary Celebration (May 10, 2001 – 2004)
- Forbidden Broadway Summer Shock! (July 5, 2004 – September 15, 2004)
- Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit (December 16, 2004 – April 15, 2007) (won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue)
- Forbidden Broadway: The Roast of Utopia (June 13, 2007 – August 22, 2007)
- Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening (October 2, 2007 – March 24, 2008) (won Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revue)
- Forbidden Broadway Dances With the Stars! (June 28, 2008 – September 2008)
- Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab (September 17, 2008 – March 1, 2009)
- Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! (July 24, 2012 – scheduled to close April 28, 2013 )
- Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 1 – 1984
- Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 2 – 1991
- Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 3 – 1994
- Forbidden Hollywood – 1995
- Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back – 1996
- Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act – 1999
- Forbidden Broadway: 20th Anniversary Edition – 2000
- Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey – 2001
- Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit – 2005
- Forbidden Broadway: Rude Awakening – 2008
- Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab – 2009
- Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking! – 2012
- List of long runs in London and the world
- Wilson, John S. "Upper West Side Is Home to Offbeat Music; Forbidden Broadway Spoofs Musical Theater", The New York Times, March 12, 1982, p. 1
- Forbidden Broadway at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 2009, accessed November 9, 2010
- Gilbert, Jenny. "Forbidden Broadway, Menier Chocolate Factory, London". The Independent, July 5, 2009, accessed November 9, 2010
- "Caricaturist Captures the Corporate Market", Biz Bash Orlando, August 11, 2008.