No Business Like Show Business in North Coast Rep’s ‘Forbidden Broadway’

Forbidden Broadway is the generic title for a series of Off-Broadway performances written by Gerard Alessandrini. The series focused on spoofing current Broadway shows and provided a lot of laughs to New York theatre fans who may have seen them.

Eventually, Forbidden Broadway started touring, and now, it seems, there are Forbidden Broadway specialists who mount productions at regional theatres (and Mr. Alessandrini’s current tour, Spamilton, played Long Beach recently).

William Selby, Cathy Barnett, Edward Staudenmayer, and Trisha Rapier
Photos by Aaron Rumley

North Coast Repertory Theatre’s upbeat production of Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits features veteran FB performers: Cathy Barnett, Trisha Rapier, Edward Staudenmayer, and William Selby, who also directed the production. All of these performers also have extensive lists of other theatre credits.

The creative team mostly consists of North Coast Rep regulars: Marty Burnett, Set Design; Matthew Novotny, Lighting Design; and Aaron Rumley, Sound Design. Regular costumer Elisa Benzoni is credited here as Costume Consultant, and Forbidden Broadway’s Dustin Cross has the Costume Design credit.

Interestingly, veteran San Diego musical director Elan McMahan makes her North Coast debut with this production. Ms. McMahon doubles as pianist.

The cast

As this is a “greatest hits” show, there is a fair amount of what might be called “classic” material mixed in with sketches from somewhat more contemporary Broadway hits (though, even most of those have been running for a while). The single show I didn’t “get” right away was Once, and that one revealed itself quickly enough.

The saddest bits were about “one-hit” stars: Andrea McArdle, who was still playing “Annie” after turning thirty, and Ben Platt, who had trouble finding work after portraying “Dear Even Hansen” both on stage and in the film.

The funniest bits, to my mind, were ones where Mr. Alessandrini addressed theatrical controversies: for example, how the voice sounds heavily amplified versus how it sounds unamplified and “belted” (a la Ethel Merman). Or, the trend to dress up actors as animals, say, for instance, in Cats or The Lion King. Cats suffers the most derision, probably because its original cast played the show in very over-the-top fashion.

By the way, I saw a production of Cats at Moonlight Stage that made a much better argument for its place in the musical theatre canon than what I had come to expect from the original version.

The most poignant number dealt with theatre as a business and how actors had to be careful about how they were cast and who cast them, particularly in a number set to the opening of Fidler on the Roof called “Ambition.” It made me concerned that these fine performers might worry that they’re slumming in suburban Solana Beach.

Maybe not. After all, “There’s no business like show business,” as Forbidden Broadway’s sketches amply illustrate.

Performs Wed. @ 7pm, Thurs-Sat @ 8PM; Sat & Sun @ 2PM, Sun @ 7pm, Fri (April 22) @ 2pm & 8pm, Wed (May 11) @ 2pm & 7pm. Closes May 15, 2022. Ample free parking is available close to the theatre. Masks are suggested but not required. The theatre no longer checks vaccination status.

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North Coast Repertory Theatre
Work 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Suite D Solana Beach CA 92075 USA Work Phone: (858) 481-1055 Website: North Coast Repertory Theatre website
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Bill Eadie

In addition to reviewing theatre for San Diego Story, Bill also reviews for TalkinBroadway.com. He is a member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and the American Theatre Critics Association. Bill is an emeritus professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University.

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1 Comment

  1. Tay Bass on April 24, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    Just saw Forbidden Broadway this afternoon. I laughed so much I was crying throughout. Everyone is so super talented. Cathy Barnett as Liza Minnelli was a scream.

    -Tay

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