Sunday, 13 July 2014

'Forbidden Broadway' at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Last week we went to see 'Forbidden Broadway' at the Choccy Factory, a show I've meant to see a few times but never managed to catch it before, either here or in New York. Its basically an extended piss-take on current and past shows and personalities and seems to be revived every few years since the original production back in the '80s. Each revival sees old skits deleted and new ones added for the latest hit shows.

This latest production featured Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis, three of whom I've seen in previous Choccy Factory (and other) productions. All have great voices and great energy, dashing round the stage with quick costume changes and incessantly changing the height of the microphone which is pointless since they're all mic'd up anyway. The set is simple to avoid cluttering the stage, just strips of silver shiny creating a back wall and a couple of steps to a slightly raised level at the back of the stage for a grand entrance. And a grand piano.

The skits covered most of the current crop of West End shows including 'Jersey Boys', 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', 'Wicked', 'The Pajama Game', 'Spamalot', 'Once', 'Mamma Mia', 'Les Miserables' and 'The Book of Mormon'. Of course, some of these have been in the show for ages because they've been around for ages whereas some are relatively new.There were also piss-takes of individual performers like Liza Minelli, Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin, Indina Menzel and Angela Lansbury (in her 'Blithe Spirit' persona to ensure it's current).

It was great fun and it's nice to be given permission to laugh at some of the quirkier aspects of some of these shows and performers. The four performers were great and very energetic, keeping it fast-paced and moving forward but I couldn't help feeling every now and then that is was playing it safe or becoming almost a cliche of itself. Maybe this is more about the older skits? What has Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin got to do with musical theatre in London today (and yes, I saw Mandy at the Choocy Factory a few years ago in the poor 'Paradise Found')? And Liza Minelli is just too easy a target for a cheap laugh. Or maybe I'm missing the point.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the show with lots of guffaws and braying out loud a little too quickly after the punchline as if to say 'I got the joke there and I got it before the rest of you'. It's not a competition and neither is it ok for you to explain the joke to the person sitting next to you in a too-loud voice. Anyway, it's on until 16 August so go and judge for yourself.

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