June 20--Stars can be hams? Who knew?
CATCO pokes fun at Broadway's spotlight hogs in Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits: Vol. 1, lyricist Gerard Alessandrini's off-Broadway revue that spoofs the biggest Broadway stars and hits.
"It's Saturday Night Live meets Broadway," said director-actor Joe Bishara. The run, which will launch CATCO's 2013-14 season, will preview tonight and open Friday night in the Riffe Center's Studio Three Theatre.So "Mandy Patinkin" (Bishara) over-emotes to the tune of Over the Rainbow, rewritten with new lyrics as Somewhat Overindulgent.
"Liza Minnelli" strains to hit a warbly high note.And "Ethel Merman" barges into The Phantom of the Opera to make Andrew Lloyd Weber's melodies more like those of Irving Berlin.
"It's almost as if Gerard goes inside the minds of the creators and performers of the musicals," Bishara said.
Among the musicals satirized in the two-act revue: Annie, Cats, Chicago, A Chorus Line, Hairspray, Into the Woods, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia! The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and Wicked.
"My fingers are always working because the piano has to sound like an orchestra," said music director and pianist Matt Clemens.
"As the onstage pianist, I'm actually the fifth character in the show, acting along with the actors."
Four performers -- two men (Bishara and Christopher Storer) and two women (Dionysia Williams and Liz Wheeler) -- must perform in multiple roles with frequent costume changes and a few satiric props.
Williams will impersonate Carol Channing and Minnelli. She also plays Rita Moreno in a rivalry-themed duet with Chita Rivera.
"Those are the biggest icons," said Williams, a Circleville native who graduated from Wright State University and has toured in the musicals Fame, Grease and The Pajama Game.
"Of course, we exaggerate certain things about each diva. ... Channing has that famous gravel to her voice, a funny blank stare and a big smile, but she's a little dead in the eyes."
She also spoofs Minnelli in Liza One Note.
"She doesn't go higher or lower," Williams said. "That's an exaggeration, but every star has their vocal range that they like to stay in to show off their best."
Storer's roles include Sir Galahad in a Spamalot parody, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and Mark in Rent. His favorite sketch is skewering Stephen Sondheim in Into the Words -- which mocks as verbose the lyrics of Into the Woods, a fractured fairy-tale musical co-written by the composer- lyricist." Into the Words talks about how Sondheim is very wordy and almost pretentious in his high-brow lyrics," Storer said. "As Sondheim, I discuss how I have no peer because I'm so good."
Williams plays Eponine, Cosette and a French chanteuse in the first-act finale, an extended parody of Les Miserables.
"It's a roast of the whole musical, from how the show is iconic to how some songs are too high for some male characters," she said.
"As Eponine, I sing On the Phone (a version of On My Own), spoofing that she can text and call people as she hides behind the rotating rubble and waits to hit her mark."
Williams has appeared in A Chorus Line, Into the Woods and other musicals spoofed in Forbidden Broadway.
"It definitely helps to have been in some of the shows," she said, "because it gives me a good starting-off point."
(c)2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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OCTOBER 30, 2014
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