REVIEW WRITTEN BY FRANK BURD
For Digital First Media
Sometimes, when I go to the theater, I just want to laugh. Other times, I want to get lost in the songs and stories on the stage. With Act II’s production of “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” I had the chance to do both.
To fully enjoy the piece, it requires a little familiarity with names like Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Stephen Sondheim, and Carol Channing. It is helpful if you are familiar with “Fiddler on the Roof, Phantom of the Opera,” and “Les Miserables.” If you do, you will have a blast and laugh your head off at the ingenious mashing up of so many familiar Broadway favorites.
Created and written by Gerard Alessandrini a generation ago, this is the latest incantation of “Forbidden Broadway,” and the four members of the Act II troupe give it a rousing performance.
Tony Braithwaite, Jeffrey Coon, Tracie Higgins, and Elena Camp are a riot, delivering the scenes and altered songs of more than a dozen of Broadway’s classics. Whether watching Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera fight it out to see who portrayed a better Anita in “West Side Story,” or cracking up at the variations of Tevya’s “Tradition” in “Fiddler,” it is impossible not to laugh out loud.
The aging “Annie” is as frustrated as is the aging Channing. But they are both a joy to watch. Maurice Chevalier introduces “Les Mis.” We watch the flying monkeys from “Wicked” sing a song to preserve Broadway. And Sonny Leo provides the on stage piano music that carries each scene forward. And forward it moves, with such rapidity as the four actors step in and out of character and extraordinary costumes. We recognize most of the characters before they even utter a sound. Special recognition to costume designer Alisa Sickora Kleckner for an outstanding collection of outfits worn but the cast.
Toss into the equation, Coon’s amazing and versatile voice with Braitwaite’s uncanny knack for nailing so many comedy moments as he impersonates just about everyone, and you have a joyous evening.
It’s only 70 minutes long, but you will come out with the satisfaction of having seen a wonderful show, precisely directed by Braithwaite, and even have time to grab a drink or meal afterward at an Ambler restaurant.
IF YOU GO
What: “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits”
When: Now through June 28
Where: Act II Playhouse, 56 E. Butler Ave., Ambler.
Tickets: $29-$40 with discounts available for students, groups, and seniors (65+).
Info.: Call (215) 654-0200 or visit www.act2.org