Columbia’s Workshop Theatre presented Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 at the Music Hall Friday afternoon. The place was only half full (and that’s not even counting the balcony) — we’re guessing either because people are burnt out on Spoleto, or they were scared off by the warnings that some of the material might go over the heads of the non-Broadway geeks.
As it turns out, the warnings were well founded. Although many in the audience seemed to enjoy the production’s humorous songs and cheesy jokes, the references were so obscure they would usually only hit home with the most serious fans of musical theater. I got the feeling that I was peeking in on a drama club meeting where the members chuckle about Sondheim and sing their favorite songs.
While admittedly the Cameron Macintosh and Mandy Patinkin numbers went completely over my head, the worst part was the eight-song segment in the first act (and two in the second) complaining about Les Miserables, from the over-acting to the boring and over-complicated plot. Unfortunately, poking fun at a boring musical is no more entertaining than a boring musical, at least in this case.
Although the meat of the production will only appeal to a narrow audience, we can’t deny the skill of the show’s six performers. They were all good singers in their own right, funny, and they worked their asses off — changing from dresses to cat costumes to fat suits couldn’t have been easy, especially in the amount of time they did it.
Bottom line: Broadway fans, step right up and get your tickets. Everyone else, save your money for another show.