Forbidden Broadway has been running in one form or another since 1981, and recently made its way to the Menier Chocolate Factory, complete with references to recent events in London’s West End, such as the collapse of the Apollo’s roof, and parodies of the most recent shows to hit theatres. I enjoyed it, but didn’t find it as funny as I thought I ought to.
The show satirises and parodies the big musicals and their big stars: we see skits on The Lion King, Les Miserables, Phantom, Miss Saigon, and Once, among numerous others. The performance opens with a clever skit on the use of child stars in the likes of Matilda and Billy Elliott, and continues in a similar vein all evening.
I enjoyed some parts of the performance more than others. The best bits were the tiny helicopter (Miss Saigon), the affectionate Sondheim parody “Into the words”, and the entire Les Miserables sequence, complete with the famous “turntable”. However, for some reason most of it just didn’t appeal. It wasn’t through lack of knowledge of what was being parodied – I “got” the vast majority of the references – I just didn’t find it hugely funny, perhaps because I genuinely enjoy the shows being parodied.
The cast of Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Damian Humbley and Ben Lewis are magnificent; they sing brilliantly and have to cope with a great many quick-fire costume changes. I couldn’t help wishing, though, that I was seeing them as part of a genuine musical cast, rather than a parody.