June 25--People who enjoy Broadway musicals should get a big kick out of Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits: Vol. 1.
With the central Ohio premiere of the long-running off-Broadway revue by Gerard Alessandrini, CATCO tackles Broadway's best and brightest with impish enthusiasm.
It's a lot of fun.
Backed smoothly on the piano by music director Matt Clemens, the four-person cast wrestles overrated shows and egotistical stars to the ground with clever lyrics and copycat mannerisms.
Directed by Joe Bishara, the brisk two-act show is effective in skewering everyone from Bob Fosse to Stephen Sondheim on a glittery stage in the unusually intimate Riffe Center's Studio Three Theatre. Often, the costumes by Marcia Hain generate chuckles even before the singing begins.
At the Friday opening, the impersonations were spot-on.
Liz Wheeler captures the diva in Barbra Streisand, while Dionysia Williams finds just the right mannerisms as an aging Annie and a chirping Liza Minnelli.
Chris Storer strains amusingly as Jean Valjean on It's Too High (to the tune of Bring Him Home), while Bishara doubles as a performer to great effect with parodies of The Phantom of the Opera and Rent.
If you've been wondering where all the gravel went that was dredged from the Scioto River, the mystery is solved: Most of it fills Williams' voice as she incarnates Carol Channing while rasping Dolly Is a Girl's Best Friend. The rest can be found in the depths of Bishara's voice as he skewers Harvey Fierstein in Edna Turnblad drag for a campy sendup of Hairspray.
Wheeler does a fine Elphaba in Wicked but is even better as Fantine, who complains about singing only one song before dying. Everyone wobbles in and out as if on a turntable in that extended mini-musical savaging of Les Miserables -- a terrific first-act finale.
A few sketches have become dated -- such as a nod to Cats, despite Bishara's cute performance while scampering around and singing I Enjoy Being a Cat. You'll enjoy his antics, but the sketch has lost its claws.
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