After three decades of needling Broadway in the musical-theater sendup Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini has lost none of his rapier edge. And in the aptly titled new edition of his Off Broadway revue, titled Comes Out Swinging!, he hits plenty of targets both old and new.
A familiar bit about vainglorious Mandy Patinkin is now matched by one about Bridges of Madison County composer Jason Robert Brown (”I am a musical masterbator”). (Both are played by Forbidden Broadway vet Scott Richard Foster.) The Roundabout’s re-revival of Cabaret justifies a spastically spot-on number for Liza Minnelli (Carter Calvert) as well as Mia Gentile’s savage skewering of new star Michelle Williams (”My talent is M.I.A.”). Even NBC’s live Sound of Music gets its musical comeuppance, with a twangy Carrie Underwood (Calvert again) complaining that ”acting’s hard” and Audra McDonald (Gentile) telling her, ”You must ruin the role you weren’t born to play.”
Not every joke lands, of course, and those with only a passing knowledge of recent Broadway hits and misses may scratch their heads at times. But you don’t need to have seen the new revival of Les Misérables to understand the critiques of its use of projections (”Look up! Look up! The slides upstage the cast!”) or the lament by the abandoned turntable set of the original production (”Turn with me, like days gone by”).
To help the casual theater fan, Alessandrini cleverly pairs well-known, easily satirized celebs with more theater-centric figures. Thus, Woody Allen (Marcus Stevens) joins director Susan Stroman (Calvert) to tweak Bullets Over Broadway (”Yes, we have no composers”), and Sly Stallone (Foster) coaches Andy Karl (Stevens) for the new Rocky musical — capping the sketch with a dramatic rollout of a plastic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot toy in a lower-budgeted homage to that show’s pricey finale set design.
The consistently terrific cast of four quick-change artists are gifted mimics as well as singers. The standout is Mia Gentile, who brings down the house as Idina Menzel shrieking out a parody of (what else?) ”Let It Go.” In a few minutes, she hits upon the Frozen star’s popularity with schoolgirls (”my vocal howling changed how singing songs are styled”), her rivalry with Barbra Streisand and Kristin Chenoweth, and even her penchant for vocal strain (”my nodes never bothered me anyway”). It?s a succinct comic masterpiece that shows Forbidden Broadway at its best: wickedly caustic fun. A?