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Rating: ***

Mernier Chocolate Factory, London (2009)

Summary: Good fun and well performed but probably best for musical theatre lovers

Forbidden Broadway has, I quickly learned, a huge cult following with aficionados of music theatre. They’ve been running this show off-Broadway (or is it off-off-Broadway) for over 25 years and over the years there’s been a range of productions that have hit London… this is the latest.

It’s a simple premise – 4 people (2 men and 2 women) accompanied by a pianist (with piano!) perform a range of popular tunes from some of the most popular musical theatre production both sides of the atlantic. The twist is that the lyrics have been re-written to parody the shows and the main performers.

So Liza Minnelli is parodied singing a song called ‘Liza one note’, Wicked’s song focuses on the lead singing loudly, Hairspray and Priscilla focus on being camp, Les Miserables addresses the length of the play, the length of their west-end run and the revolving stage and so on. Disney, in particular, gets a fair few comic references

So far, nothing much to write home about – a bunch of ‘comedy’ songs based on show tunes. But, surprisingly, it works and works really well but only if you know what you’re seeing. If you’re not aware of Electricity from Billy Elliot, or The Best Of Times from La Cage Aux Folles, then this will probably be just a mildly amusing cabaret show.

However, if you know your musical theatre, you’ll be in for a treat. The re-written lyrics are funny and do touch a nerve with the productions and people they mock. The cast is enthusiastic and talented and, despite a very limited stage setting (some curtains, some cheap props and innumerable costume changes) there’s a feeling of style and grandeur about it. Above all you’ll come out with a smile on your face, a song on your lips and, in all probability, the urge to run out and see the originals again.

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