‘Forbidden Broadway’ back with cheeky look at today’s shows

Joshua Turchin, Immanuel Houston, Aline Mayagoitia, Chris Collins-Pisano and Jenny Lee Stern in a scene from FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: THE NEXT GENERATION at the Triad Theatre. (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

Even if “Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation” does not necessarily rank among the best editions of writer-director Gerard Alessandrini’s much-beloved, cheeky-but-affectionate revue, satirizing both classic and current Broadway musicals, it is still great to have the long-running Off-Broadway show (which went on hiatus in 2014) up and running again.

“Forbidden Broadway” may be considerably smaller in size than the musicals that it targets, but it has always been distinguished by the wit of Alessandrini’s parodying lyrics, which are seamlessly combined with the music from each show (as played by pianist Fred Barton).

The five cast members (one more than the standard quartet, including 13-year-old Joshua Turchin) make for a terrific ensemble. In addition to undergoing countless costume changes and delivering larger-than-life energy, they manage to hone in on the eccentricities of the individuals they parody without going overboard.  

The new edition (which is making its debut at the intimate Triad nightclub space on the Upper West Side) takes aim at new and recent musicals (from “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Frozen” to “Moulin Rouge!”), noteworthy revivals (the Yiddish “Fiddler on the Roof,” the experimental “Oklahoma!”), stage stars and divas (from Lin-Manuel Miranda to Bernadette Peters), and Broadway-centric film and television projects (“Mary Poppins Returns,” “Judy,” “Fosse/Verdon”). 

The opening number is cute, with the traditional “Forbidden Broadway” anthem interrupted by a family of tourists trying to figure out what shows to see. André De Shields (Immanuel Houston, invoking a flashy “Hadestown” groove) then materializes and invites the tourists on a comprehensive Broadway tour. (The family later returns for a surprisingly touching finale.)

The songs and sketches that follow have a rough, hit-or-miss quality, with a few clever standouts surrounded by too many clunkers that fail to land. Alessandrini relies heavily on obvious comments and criticisms, as in painting “Moulin Rouge!” as over-the-top and oversexed and the “Oklahoma!” revival as self-indulgent.

Alessandrini also relies too heavily on insider references that only obsessed theater geeks such as myself will understand. That being said, it was a wonderful touch to pay tribute to the late producer-director Hal Prince at the end. 

The edition fares best when Alessandrini takes unpredictable detours. In the best bit, Judy Garland (Jenny Lee Stern, with a crazy streak) reacts to Renée  Zellweger’s impersonation of her in “Judy” by doing her own mocking interpretation of  Zellweger playing Roxie Hart in “Chicago.” In other words, it’s Stern playing Garland playing Zellweger playing Hart. Other highlights include a stroll through flop musicals led by Mary Poppins and a duet between Lin-Manuel Miranda (Chris Collins-Pisano) and Billy Porter  (Houston) celebrating inclusivity.

2.5 stars

 “Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation” runs through Jan. 5 at the Triad Theatre. 158 W. 72nd St., forbiddenbroadway.com.