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​The writing is funny, the dancing is great, the costumes are fantastic, the cast is excellent – in all, Forbidden Broadway is a great night out.
NEW YORK’S longest running musical comedy, Forbidden Broadway, had its Joburg opening night audience in stitches.

broadClint LeschClint Lesch leads the cast of Forbidden Broadway in a dance routine (Photo: Jan Potgieter)The show, being staged at Con Cowan Theatre on the University of Johannesburg Bunting Road Campus until 26 May, parodies other Broadway hits such as Mamma Mia, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables.

Audiences cheered and laughed at the re-written lyrics, which played so well on the original wording they had spectators gasping for air between giggles. The 11 cast members sang, danced and acted their way from one Broadway show to the next.

The head of the university’s arts and culture department, Ashraf Johaardien, says: “With its broad-based references to a range of well-known musicals, Forbidden Broadway presents an ideal opportunity not only to teach the triple-threat disciplines of singing, dancing and acting, but it is also a great vehicle for showcasing what has proven to be an exceptional process led by our guest-director, Greg Homann, and the exceptional creative team he brought together for this production.”

In particular, Rowan Bakker’s work with the students in terms of musical direction brought to the fore abilities they never thought they had, he adds. “Clint Lesch’s choreography plays to the strengths of our young cast and the overall effect is dance routines that are sleek and highly effective without losing the feel of the original routines referenced.”

Costumes and lighting
About the costume changes and the subtle lighting, Johaardien explains: “JC Laurent’s designs pay tribute to the classic look and feel of Broadway musicals with lighting and stage design that is a first for the Con Cowan Theatre and this, its debut musical.”

Forbidden Broadway was first seen at Palsson’s Supper Club on New York’s Upper West Side in January 1982. Constantly updated, the production has had several editions and countless revisions. It was the brainchild of the then unemployed actor, Gerard Alessandrini, who decided to bring together some of the musical satires of Broadway productions he had written since childhood, into a nightclub act.

Playing CatsPlaying Cats (Photo: Jan Potgieter)Homann says: “There are a lot of revue shows that spoof Broadway and West End musicals but Forbidden Broadway is unique. Gerard Alessandrini’s rewrites are not only funny but highly informed. It is easy to mock a show or number in a crude, silly or crass way, but where this revue succeeds is in its intelligence and wit.”

Each number pokes fun at an aspect of a Broadway show, personality, or style, Homann explains. “The songs require a talented cast that can sing each musical number well … In fact, if we’ve got it right, the songs should sound just like they did in the original show, the difference of course is that the words have been changed.”

Forbidden Broadway and Alessandrini won Tony Honours for Excellence in Theatre in 2006. The show has had more than 9 000 performances in more than 200 cities in countries as diverse as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore and Australia. The 25th anniversary production also won the 2008 Drama Desk Award for outstanding revue.

Tickets for the production are R60 and can be bought at Computicket. Con Cowan Theatre is on the university’s Bunting Road Campus alongside the SABC buildings, in Auckland Park.

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