“Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits” is a spoof of the grandest sort, making fun of those classic shows by rewriting the lyrics to familiar tunes and stupendously overacting the roles.
The play opened last weekend at the Randall Theatre.
Fans of Great White Way blockbusters will appreciate “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits.” Directed by Kathy Wing with a cast of five, the show has every Broadway musical and character you’ve come to love. And if you’re an actor, the play characterizes every show you’ve come to hate over the course of a long run, with a role repeated a zillion times and a song now a worm in your head.
The set is a plain, brick palette to showcase the vaudevillian revue, the stage action highlighted with a wobbly spotlight that wanders about on its own accord. There’s a curtained door too small for the action required of it and performers squeeze through its narrow opening to leap into action. The long-suffering stage manager, played by Ella Nelson-Mahon, moves heavy boxes about the set, grumbling sotto voce and sometimes more loudly in exasperation. Those audience members in the best seat in the house are lucky enough to hear her every cranky line; those in the back can join in the laugh regardless. Nelson-Mahon is a delight with her eye rolls, winks and generally crabby nature as she reads from cue cards, holds a prop or interrupts a scene.
Perhaps the actor who performs with the most exaggerated ineptitude is Alissa Larson as Carol Channing, Liza Minelli and Barbra Streisand. Larson has the defining characteristics of these aging divas — Channing’s odd lisp and Minelli’s famed, single note — down to a T. In the Carol Channing scene, Brandt Nakamura and Austin Kelly wail their discontent as the addled prima donna happily sings “Hello Dolly” ad nauseum.
Nakamura’s burly frame matches his baritone as he belts out the lines and stretches for some absurdly high notes. Sometimes he’s masked and suited as Erik in “Phantom of the Opera” when Myranda Agueros as Ethel Merman gives him voice lessons. And in other scenes, Nakamura’s tattooed biceps are sheathed in sequins, shaking his bawdy booty along with the crew.
“Hairspray” is particularly hilarious as two Edna Turnblads show up on set, Kelly as Harry Fierstein and the other, Nakamura as Johnny Travolta. The costuming of both men was complete in polyester and full facial hair.
This was Myranda Agueros’ Randall debut, and she was featured in many of the sets, including Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray,” a natural in hairband, standout skirt and bobby socks. Agueros was also featured in the Little Orphan Annie set, picture perfect in a big red wig with saucer eyes as burned out Annie. The cigarette and coy, chirping, hoarse voice and adult “give me a job” attitude was comic.
Toni Holley is Randall’s assistant artistic director and had her hands full with “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits.” Costume design was largely handled by Alayna Riley, who returned to college before opening night, leaving Holley to wrap up the final threads.
“There were 50 costume changes and 21 different wigs in the production,” Holley said. Wigs were everywhere in “Forbidden Broadway” — on heads, in hands and in your face. “We had to order two Rita Moreno wigs for the ‘Chita and Rita’ number and three ‘Hairspray’ wigs.” Holley also sewed a number of the dresses used in the show.
“Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits” is candy for your funny bone, and you won’t hear a serious note sung the entire evening.
The play continues in the Randall Annex at 10 E. Third St., Medford, through Sept. 23. Tickets are $15 in advance, or pay what you will at the door. The show runs about 90 minutes including intermission. Future Randall Theatre productions will be on its new stage at 20 E. Fir St., just off Main Street. See www.randalltheatre.com or call 541-632-3258 for tickets and more information.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at firstname.lastname@example.org.