Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By John Quinn
A musical parody for Christmas: A little naughty means very, very nice
DETROIT – I’ve been a fan of Gerard Alessandrini, writer of “Forbidden Christmas,” ever since a friend with tastes as warped as mine brought the album “Forbidden Broadway” to my Christmas party in days of Auld Lang Syne. The group sat around, laughing like idiots, as we listened to a bitter “Patty LuPone” bemoan her loss of the film role of Eva Peron in “Don’t Cry for Me, Barbra Streisand” (“You’ll do the movie, and what a bummer/When you sing Eva like Donna Sommer”). You didn’t know Babs wanted “Evita?” Did I mention I’ve been an Alessandrini fan for a long, long time?
Little did we know that “Forbidden Broadway” would run 21 years, through 15 editions and seven cast albums.
“Forbidden Christmas,” now at the Century Theatre, is one of the impish offspring of the original production. The show is a musical review, faster paced than Santa’s reindeer. It pokes a little musical fun at the productions and celebrities of the Great White Way, as well as some popular entertainers, past and present. You don’t have to be a theater expert to catch the jokes, but it’s like “Cats”-nip to those up on their show tunes.
Our four performers, Kate Willinger, Eric Lee Johnson, Kevin B. McGlynn and Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck, spend the better part of two hours tossing characters on and off as deftly as they change wigs.
Musical director Ed Wells provides the accompaniment from the on-stage baby grand.
Together they musically skewer the marketing excesses of producer Cameron Mackintosh and the stylistic excesses of Julie Andrews, to name just a couple of their “victims.” The fun comes in many different forms: from a knockdown burlesque of the “Sound of Music” to the uncanny accuracy of Kate Willinger’s Streisand impersonation – and even from some wickedly funny drag.
While the production is graced with a uniformly gifted ensemble, one must pause to raise a special “wassail” to Eric Lee Johnson, who manages impersonations as wildly diverse as Whoopi Goldberg and Luciano Pavarotti with out batting an eyelash.
Early in the show we’re asked – in regards to Christmas presents – “What can be better than tickets to a Broadway show?” Is this an example of shameless hucksterism? Maybe, but I appreciate where they’re coming from. Barring a trip to New York for the holidays, tickets to “Forbidden Broadway” beats a tie-and-handkerchief set any day.
“Forbidden Christmas” Presented Wednesday through Sunday at the Century Theatre, 333 Madison Ave., Detroit, through Jan. 4. Tickets: $28.50 – $37.50. 313-963-9800. www.gemtheatre.com.
The Bottom Line: If you don’t “Ho, ho, ho!” at this show (show, show!), then the Grinch has stolen your sense of humor.