There's something to be said for the enduring charms of parody. Taking something familiar and skewing its peculiar mechanisms is one of comedy's load-bearing pillars of mirth, which is where Two-One Way Tickets to Broadway has set its sights on with Forbidden Broadway. It's a wide-reaching send-up of Broadway's enduring musicals: Chicago to Rent, Spamalot to Les Mis—it sure runs through a lot of 'em over two acts of musical revue. Ethel Merman shows up at one point. So does Liza Minelli.
There's charm in this production, directed as it is by Linette Smith and cast with a likeable bunch, tasked with donning an endless supply of wigs and costumes to change into and out of. But there isn't a whole lot of depth to Gerard Alessandrini's script: he prefers to keep its ribbing at surface-level. Swap the word “Rent” with “Hype” in the title song of Rent, and you know where we're going, and that's pretty much the case the whole way through. It's not that parody has to be dark or mean or rated-R to be effective, and there are moments here that do shine—a good run of Les Mis songs near the end of act one, and calling out the vapidness of jukebox musicals like Mama Mia begins to broach that smarter level of comedy. But when it's reduced to a one-point parody, like many of the songs here are, Forbidden Broadway can't help but feel a bit surface-sheen.
That's no fault of the cast, of course, who put in a spirited run through a gauntlet of material. Kristin Johnston's pretty compelling and hilarious in most all of her takes, though the other three—Victoria Breitkreuz, Martin Galba and Kyle Thulien—hold up too, both musically and in terms of performance (same goes for Robert Bradford as Liberace on the live piano accompaniment). And the lack of depth didn't seem to bother much of the audience on Saturday night, hooting and hollering along. So, one for the Broadway diehards to enjoy thoroughly enough, perhaps, even as it lacks in some greater substance to its comedy.
Until Sat, Nov 16 (7:30 pm)
Directed by Linette Smith
La Cite Theatre, $26