‘Forbidden Broadway’ Theater Review: Judy Garland Impersonates Renée Zellweger & Other Gems

Musical theater’s favorite parody show returns with brickbats for Ben Platt, Billy Porter, and Lin-Manuel Miranda

forbidden broadway
Photo: Carol Rosegg

“Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation!” opened Thursday at Off Off Broadway’s Triad Theater, and once again creator-writer-director Gerard Alessandrini knows the multiple ways in which musical parody can delight an audience.

First, there’s the parody that makes you feel not alone in the Broadway world. According to Alessandrini, you’re not the only one who found Ben Platt’s Tony-winning turn in “Dear Evan Hansen” insufferably treacly and overwrought. If the young and very talented Joshua Turchin doesn’t watch out, the “Evan Hansen” producers may cast him in their show. Until then, he’s inspired in “Evan Has-Been.”

Also in the vein of “you’re not alone,” there’s also a Billy Porter impersonation for all those theatergoers who can’t penetrate this performer’s increasingly shiny and totally opaque façade. Immanuel Houston captures that overbearing narcissism in a duet with Chris Collins-Pisano’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. They take the Ethel Merman anthem to sing “Ev-rying Now Is Inclusive,” ending it with “for me and for me!”

Then there’s the parody that’s so brimming with raw talent you don’t want to interrupt the singer by laughing. Jenny Lee Stern’s vocals rivet as she plays Judy Garland imitating Renée Zellweger in “Judy.” This performance thrills even more than it tickles.

Some parodies makes you realize you were dead wrong about a favorite show. “Woke-lahoma!” makes it impossible for anyone to offer another word of defense for the current hit revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. Aline Mayagoitia’s somber, repressed and horny Laurey joins the equally glum Collins-Pisano, Houston, Stern and Turchin.

And there’s also the rare parody that brilliantly mocks death. Stern’s Mary Poppins sends up the In Memoriam segment of every awards show with “The Place Where the Lost Shows Go.” It’s a veritable cavalcade of the walls of Joe Allen restaurant commemorating short-lived productions.

Not everything works in this latest incarnation of “Forbidden Broadway,” and Alessandrini must know it, because he front-loads the show with his misfires on “Moulin Rouge!” “Fosse/Verdon” and Jeremy Pope (Houston) in “Ain’t Too Proud.”

Sorry. I still like Pope, and why shouldn’t he sell out and go Hollywood?