Pump up the Camp!
Fun with an edge in Forbidden Broadway
BY ANNA GRACE
Forbidden Broadway is a hilarious spoof playing the range from witty commentary to men in drag. It’s entertainment about entertainment, full of big voices and beautiful people.
The show, playing now at Actors Cabaret of Eugene, goes best with a glass of wine and a good friend. Its biting humor reminds me of the kitchen-counter after-party to a family reunion. Sharp while loving and wickedly funny, it can look incomprehensible and mean unless you share the DNA. I’m a pretty savvy woman when it comes to things theatrical. I played Mandy Patinkin’s Mandy Patinkin ’til the tape went bumpy. I still own The Ethel Merman Disco Album. But about 20 percent of the backstage Broadway jokes flew right past me. Although anyone can appreciate the general silliness, I was frustrated by “in” jokes I was not in on.
Still, even at 80 percent humorous, the show works. Les Miz’s bedraggled Eponine texting backstage prior to her death scene, singing “On My Phone”; a chain smoking, 30-year-old Little Orphan Annie begging for revival — it’s just funny, whether you know the originals or not.
Director Joe Zingo has put together an enthralling cast. The voices of Hunter Shannon, Rachel O’Malley, Chris McVein and Megan Robertson; the brassy charm of Kathryn Bowman; the droll humor of Colin Gray — this cast was just about the entire package. The young, well-coiffed row of actors could have benefitted from a little gravitas. A more even spread of ages among the men would have anchored the production, completing this professional group.
New to choreography, Chris McVein rocks the ACE stage. His dance sequences are a tongue-in-cheek take on classics, like a hysterical spoof of Bob Fosse or a relentlessly wandering, endlessly pretentious Sondheim scene. The dancing fits the flow and language of the show, drawing us in rather than drawing attention to itself. Best of all, there is only one box step in the whole production, and I think it is ironic.
I wonder about the legalities involved in altering the script of Forbidden Broadway to reflect Eugene. Aside from one joke about highschoolers performing Rent (touché), little was done to poke fun at our own community. We may be a small theater community, but we are vibrant and talented, every bit as ridiculous as they are in N.Y. Forbidden Actors Cabaret?
Forbidden Broadway continues through June 6 at ACE. Tix at actorscabaret.org or 683-4368.