Brace yourself, theater people: Gerard Alessandrini, the merry skewer-er of all that you do, is coming back with “Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation.”
A New York institution since 1982, “Forbidden Broadway” packed up five years ago because Alessandrini believed there weren’t enough shows back then to mock. But Broadway, he tells me, “is reinvigorated — there are so many different kinds of shows to make fun of.”
“Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation” will play a 10-week engagement at the Triad starting Sept. 18. Expect parodies of Bette Midler (“Hello, Dolly!”), jukebox musicals about Cher and Tina Turner, spectacles (“King Kong”), “woke” revivals (“Oklahoma!”), musicals about teenage angst (“Dear Evan Hansen”) and Disney’s latest “family shows.”
“There’s going to be at least one kid in my show, maybe two,” Alessandrini says. “Broadway is definitely skewed to youth and spectacles. Gone are the days of Stephen Sondheim and ‘A Little Night Music.’ It’s broader than it ever was.”
The last kiddie show he spoofed was “Annie,” back in the early ‘80s. The actress playing the original Annie, Andrea McArdle, was smoking a cigarette and singing “Thirty years old, tomorrow, and I haven’t worked since I was 10.”
In the latest version, he tackles “Frozen” in a skit called “Let It Blow!” He’s also got something in mind for all those young Irish kids in “The Ferryman,” while “King Kong” comes in for a mash-up with “My Fair Lady” (“All I want is a hairy ape”).
Alessandrini’s spoofs have always been tempered with affection — he’s been a Broadway baby since 1970, when he saw the Boston tryout of “Follies” as a kid — but he’s aware that there are some things you can’t get away with anymore.
A parody of “Ragtime” years ago had its star, Audra McDonald, doubling as a cleaning lady. “Livin’ Evita Loca,” a spoof of a revival of “Evita,” made fun of its Argentinian leading lady’s accent. And in a classic sketch about the rivalry between Ethel Merman and Mary Martin, Merman shoves Martin off the stage.
As far as Alessandrini’s concerned, political correctness is just another obstacle to overcome. “I’ve always been hampered,” he says. “We never had a budget of more than $50,000. I have to follow rhyme schemes. I have to be more careful now, but that’s just another parameter.”
One of Alessandrini’s best sketches made fun of Tommy Tune’s 1989 “Grand Hotel,” whose characters came through the hotel’s revolving doors singing, “People come, people go,” and moved chairs to change scenes. Alessandrini summed up the whole thing in a sketch called “People Come, People Go, People Move Chairs.”
“My mother came up with that line,” he says. “She saw the show in Boston, and when I asked her about it she said, ‘People move chairs.’ ”
Whenever he writes a sketch, he says, he thinks of his mother. “She was middle of the road. She knew some musicals. If I could make her understand it, I could do it.”
When “Forbidden Broadway” closed in 2014, Alessandrini thought that was the end. But “Hamilton” came along the next year, inspiring him to write “Spamilton.” Scheduled for just 18 performances at the Triad in 2016, “Spamilton” ran six months, moved to another theater and spawned productions in Chicago, Los Angeles and London.
Lin-Manuel Miranda loved it. He’ll be parodied in “Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation” along with Ben Platt (“Dear Evan Hansen”), Santino Fontana (“Tootsie”) and Alex Brightman (“Beetlejuice”).
Don’t be afraid, guys. Being ridiculed in “Forbidden Broadway” means one thing: You’ve arrived.
Lots of buzz about “Passing Through,” playing its final performances this weekend at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House. Based on the podcast “Walking to Listen,” about a young man’s year-long walk from Pennsylvania to California, it stars Max Chernin. Look for it in New York next year.
You can hear Michael Riedel weekdays on “Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” on WOR radio 710.
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