Forbidden Broadway is where scenery-chewing misfits, self-deprecating showboats, and fornicating puppets meet. Gerard Alessandrini and company have been dreaming up wicked Broadway parodies for nearly 30 years, and today the show is funnier than ever. Joining the cast that appeared at the Granada last week was Santa Barbara resident Shannon Saleh, who was chosen through a talent search held a week before the show opened.
The format of Forbidden Broadway is straight-ahead revue, but that’s about the only normal thing in the show. After a brilliant Bob Fosse tribute/demolition, replete with white gloves, outspread fingers, and ridiculous poses, it was time for the evening’s first star turn. Valerie Fagan came onstage in an outgrown, bright-red baby doll dress with a big buckle in the front, wearing a curly red wig-and smoking a cigarette. Annie may be all grown up now, but has it really come to this? The song she sang, loosely based on “Tomorrow,” concerned her desperation for a “revival” of her one and only hit.
The magic of Forbidden Broadway occurs when three important elements collide. First, there’s got to be a (verbal) gimmick-something like the replacement of the chorus’s emphasis word “tomorrow” with “revival” that gives the audience the bit’s premise. Second comes the incredible vocal fidelity the actors achieve with their singing impressions. Nuances that have become over-familiar from repeat listening to Broadway soundtracks flood back, accompanied by hysterical fits. Finally, there are the extra touches that really sell the satire. Although Annie’s smoking-induced coughing fit got everyone going in this number, it was her throwaway final line-a half-muttered “I can’t do this!”-that called forth the biggest laugh.
An extended take on Les Miserables required the cast to mimic the show’s famous revolving stage with just footwork. Michael West and Edward Staudenmayer played many male roles, and even some parts-like the flying monkey from Wicked and Harvey Fierstein’s role in Hairspray-that defy categorization. Although Fagan may have been the audience’s overall favorite, it was Christina Bianco’s madcap “Glitter and Be Glib,” a stunning rundown of the career of Broadway-actress-turned-television-star Kristin Chenoweth, which left perhaps the evening’s strongest mark. And Santa Barbara’s own Shannon Saleh may be a teacher by day, but by night, she’s a forbidden star.