"Forbidden Broadway: Behind the Mylar Curtain"

Whether tackling a mega musical or a mega ego, Forbidden Broadway has been a staple of the Broadway scene for almost three decades. The small off-Broadway revue has thrived on poking fun at NY theatre with their inventive costumes, wittily knowing lyrics and this general sense of tongue-in-cheek fun. While the show has closed up shop (for now) earlier this year, its legacy continues with the release of the new book Forbidden Broadway: Behind the Mylar Curtain by FB’s creator Gerard Alessandrini, assisted by Michael Portantiere. Together, they have assembled this coffee table sized book which details the history of the franchise, offering brief analysis and selections from some of the parody lyrics and scenes he has written over the years.

It’s most fascinating to look back at the show’s humble origins. Alessandrini was a waiter and maitre d’ at Avery Fisher Hall in the early 80s while Richard Burton was reviving Camelot at Lincoln Center. From word of mouth on how drunk the actor was onstage (and off), he wrote “I Wonder What the King is Drinking Tonight.” With his friends Nora Maye Lyng and pianist Pete Blue, the show was first performed at open mic night at Palsson’s in 1981. It gradually grew into a steadier gig, with four actors, a piano and that mylar curtain. Alessandrini also relays how a ruthless evisceration of Lauren Bacall in Woman of the Year (“I’m One of the Girls Who Sings Like a Boy”) brought the show to the attention of Rex Reed, and by extension the entire NY theatre community. Alessandrini is at his best when discussing the early history of the show. He does offer some running commentary throughout the book, but he doesn’t nearly go as in depth as one would like.

More interesting than his recollections is the opportunity to see his lyrics in print. There have been enough lyrics, updates and revisions to warrant a two-volume tome, but here you get the best of the best. It’s especially nice to see some of those that were never recorded (i.e. Woman of the Year). As someone who grew up on the recordings alone, it’s interesting to note that the lyrics in print do not necessarily correlate with those on disc. (I’m also grateful that three of my favorite parodies are reprinted here: “I Couldn’t Hit the Note,” “Super-Frantic-Hyperactive-Self-Indulgent-Mandy,” and one of the most brilliant, “Gagtime.”) However, the some of the interesting contributions to the book come from FB alumni, including Broadway staples Ron Bohmer, Dan Reichard, Brad Oscar, Barbara Walsh, Dee Hoty, Bryan Batt and Christine Pedi. These actors offer their perspective and fond memories of what it was like to be involved with the show and to work with Alessandrini.

There are a great deal of pictures throughout, most notably in a tribute to the late Alvin Colt, the Broadway costume designer whose visual gags were sometimes just as funny, if not funnier than the parody at hand. There’s also a Hall of Fame of sorts showing the various celebrities who had come to see the show over the years (who knew Myrna Loy was a fan?) However, not all is perfect. There is a major issue I have with the book and one that makes me feel a little bit too much like a cranky old schoolmarm. But there are copious amounts of typographical errors, both in the commentary and in the lyrics. I stopped counting well into the double digits; it proved to be an overwhelming distraction for me as I read. For a book that retails at $24.99, I just think there should be some consideration given to proofreading by the publishing house.

"Forbidden Broadway" on the Page

Forbidden Broadway is now in book form! And they are celebrating the release with several different parties:


In celebration of the release of Forbidden Broadway, the first portion of Jim Caruso’s Cast Party at Birdland on Monday, November 23rd will be dedicated to the Forbidden Broadway musical. This show-tunes themed open mic night will include performances by Gerard Alessandrini, Nora Mae Lyng, pianist David Caldwell, and more. Books will be available for purchase at the event, and Alessandrini will be signing copies.

Monday, November 23
9:30 PM
Jim Caruso’s Cast Party
315 West 44th Street
$10 Cover + $10 food/drink minimum


Merkin Concert Hall presents an evening with Gerard Alessandrini, the comic genius behind Forbidden Broadway. Hosted by Sean Hartley, the evening includes interviews with Mr. Alessandrini and performances by Forbidden Broadway veterans James Donegan, Donna English, Gina Kreiezmar, Nora Mae Lyng, Jeanne Montano, and Bill Selby along with surprise guests. The concert is followed by a book signing with Mr. Alessandrini. Books will be available for purchase at the event alongside the author signing.

Monday, December 7, 2009
8:00 PM
Broadway Close Up: Gerard Alessandrini, Creator of Forbidden Broadway
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center
129 West 67th Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam)
New York, NY 10023
Single tickets: $40
Tickets at 212 501 3330 or www.kaufman-center.org


Michael Portantiere hosts a book signing with Gerard Alessandrini, creator of Forbidden Broadway. Alessandrini and other cast members will also perform songs from the show. Afterward, the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions in a Q&A. Books will be available for purchase at the event. This event is free and open to the public.

Tuesday January 12, 2010
7:30 PM
Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Triangle
1972 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
Free & open to the public.

Forbidden Broadway: Behind the Mylar Curtain (Applause Theater and Cinema Books), written by Gerard Alessandrini with Michael Portantiere, is a hilarious, loving, no-holds-barred chronicle of the revue that has enthralled and delighted audiences in New York City, Los Angeles, London, and all around the world for three decades, spoofing shows from Les Misérables to Wicked and stars from Ethel Merman to Hugh Jackman. This journey through the creation and history of Forbidden Broadway offers a dazzling, whimsical inside glimpse at the evolution of the show in its 20 incarnations to date, with zany parodies, hilarious lyrics and behind-the-scenes stories—and there’s no better person to tell the tale than the creator/writer/director of Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini.

Mr. Alessandrini is best known for creating, writing and directing all the editions of Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood in New York, Los Angeles, London, and around the world. Also a member of the original cast of Forbidden Broadway, he is the recipient of an Obie Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, two Lucille Lortel Awards and six Drama Desk Awards for Forbidden Broadway as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Drama League. In 2006 he received a special Tony Award Honor for Excellence in Theater.