Broadway steps down from its pedestal in parody production

There is really nothing more hilarious than when a revered institution, for example, the Great White Way of Broadway, steps down from its lofty, self-important pedestal to make fun of itself.

The Carmel Community Players production of “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” co-directed by Jan Jamison and Perry Accetturo and playing through Feb. 28, does just that. The six-person ensemble cast of Vince Accetturo, Denise Fort, Darrin Gowan, Lauren Leigh, Rebecca DeVries McConnell and Michelle Wafford sings and dances its way tirelessly and marvelously through some 30 well-known Broadway hits — all while poking fun at the shows we know and love. There is not a weak voice in the bunch.

The show opens with a couple of parodies from “Chicago.” One entitled “Saucy Fosse” compared the great choreographer’s work to the moves in a game of Twister. If you’re familiar with Twister (left hand on red) and Bob Fosse’s penchant for placing his dancers in contorted positions on the floor, then you’ll see the humor.

Next to take the stage was an out of shape, 30-year-old Annie singing that she’ll be “30 years old — tomorrow.” Actress Rebecca DeVries McConnell spits out the word, “tomorrow,” like she can barely stand the taste of it as she laments the fact that she hasn’t worked in theater since she was 10.

A somewhat esoteric joke for those in the know about theater was sung to the tune of Stephen Sondheim’s title song, “Into the Woods.” The parody, “Into the Words,” poked fun at Sondheim’s tongue-twisting lyrics and sometimes tuneless songs with help from some of Sondheim’s best-known characters, who point to scripts with “more letters than they sell on ‘Wheel of Fortune.’”

Another highlight was a sing-off between Chita Rivera (Lauren Leigh) who starred in the Broadway version of “West Side Story” and Rita Moreno (Wafford) who starred in the movie version.

Even the very serious side of Broadway does not escape, unscathed. The lyric, “At the end of this play, you’re another year older,” pokes fun at the wearisome length of “Les Miserables.”

“Seasons of Love” from “Rent,” Jonathan Larson’s explosively popular rock musical about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, became “Seasons of Hype.”

The production was most successful when the casting and costuming allowed for a believable impersonation of the original actor. Wafford’s portrayal of Eponine from “Les Miserables” not only had the immediately identifiable costume but the pipes to sing “On My Phone,” an ode to her iPhone sung to the tune of “On My Own.”

Accetturo as Harvey Firestein (as Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray”) singing “You Can’t Stop the Camp” was also dead-on.

The highlight of the performance was when McConnell hit it out of the ballpark with her impression of Barbra Streisand singing “Back to Broadway to record some slow tunes” to the tune of “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” Her total immersion in the character included not only Streisand’s mouth contortions while singing but her proclivity for fluctuating the volume of her vocals.

There is so much wit and cleverness in the lyrics, so many puns and jokes that one is tempted to see the show again to catch everything that was missed the first time.

The true audience for “Forbidden Broadway” are those musical theater fans who cut their teeth on “West Side Story,” have a special section just for Stephen Sondheim in their music collection and tear up every time they hear a power ballad from Rent.

Although some of the songs are more biting and sharp than funny, to be a Broadway star and to be spoofed in “Forbidden Broadway” can only mean one thing: you’ve arrived.

If you go

“Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits” plays at the Carmel Community Players, 14229 Clay Terrace Blvd., Carmel, through Feb. 28. Visit carmelplayers.org to order tickets.

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Christine Schaefer is arts editor and editorial assistant at the Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3222 or cschaefer@greenfieldreporter.com.