Forbidden Broadway, Menier Chocolate Factory

“Gerard Alessandrini (creator, writer and director) and Philip George (director) bring their multi-award winning satirical musical, Forbidden Broadway to the Menier Chocolate Factory for a limited run only, until 30 August. The show, which recently finished its record-breaking 27-year run in New York makes its first visit to London in 10 years.

The London cast is Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Alasdair Harvey and Steven Kynman. Set designs are by Morgan Large, with costumes designs by Alvin Colt, lighting by David Howe and musical direction by Joel Fram. Forbidden Broadway is presented in association with John Freedson and Harriet Yellin.

The cabaret musical revue, Forbidden Broadway, presents an informal and entertaining look at the history of the American musical theatre, lampooning and spoofing some of the current and contemporary musicals as well as targeting actors, directors, composers and writers. Last seen on our shores 10 years ago, this updated version created especially for the Menier Chocolate Factory, features numbers from some of the best theatre productions seen both on Broadway and in the West End in recent years, including old favourites: The Lion King, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, they also have their sights set on Hairspray, Avenue Q, Wicked, Jersey Boys, La Cage Aux Folles, Sunday in the Park with George and many more…

Forbidden Broadway was first seen at Palsson’s Supper Club in New York January 1982. Unemployed actor Gerard Alessandrini wanted a showcase for his talents and put together as a nightclub act, a selection of some of the musical parodies of Broadway shows he had written. Lauded by critics and audiences alike Forbidden Broadway has since become New York’s longest running musical comedy revue, winning Drama Desk, Obie and Outer Critics Circle Awards, and recently receiving a Tony Honor.

Forbidden Broadway was last seen in London in 1999 at the Jermyn Street Theatre and later that year the production transferred to the West End to the Albery Theatre, where it enjoyed a sell –out run.

Under the direction of Artistic Director David Babani, and having recently celebrating its fifth birthday, the Menier Chocolate Factory, as well as producing in SE1 at its home theatre, has transferred seven productions to the West End – most recently Maria Friedman Re-Arranged, La Cage aux Folles which is currently playing at the Playhouse Theatre and A Little Night Music which opened at the Garrick Theatre earlier this month. As well as the theatre space, the multi award-winning Menier Chocolate Factory has a restaurant serving pre-theatre and a la carte menus.”

More information and book tickets to see this farcical hit here.

A Song Cycle for Soho, Soho Theatre

There is something wonderful about knowing that all around you performances are in progress. This is what makes the Soho Theatre so unique, every night there is a choice of three or four shows, simultaneously playing in various parts of the building. Previously I have seen some brilliant boutique opera productions here, and famed comedians often reside here, but this time I was visiting to watch the jazz-hands-fabulous cabaret show, A Song Cycle for Soho.

The show is like a miniature American musical, with sixteen original numbers about Soho written by British composers and lyricists. The sound reminded me immediately of the music of Jason Robert Brown, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim, the gods of contemporary American musical theatre. The songs, despite being written by multiple composers, fit fluently together to produce a very tight 75 minute showcase. There is little running narrative and you will be confused if you expect to understand the sequence of songs, instead the numbers should be appreciated as discreet unrelated performances.

The feisty cast of four (Claire Moore, Niamh Perry, Michael Cantwell, James Gillan) are superb, they give a seamless performance with abundant energy and are very well rehearsed. Each displays different strengths, the two women are brilliant character actresses, very convincing and funny, while James Gillan has the most delicious richly toned voice, and wouldn’t be out of place leading a cast in a big West End musical. I enjoyed the more intimate scenes best, the ‘Old Compton Street’ duet at the bar by Claire and Naimh is lovely, a jazzy little number written by Alexander Rudd (music) and Jenifer Toksvig (lyrics) – it is beautifully timed and perfectly in tune. ‘Mummy Knows Better’ by Barnaby Race is another memorable song with satisfyingly crunchy harmonies and crafty teamwork from the full cast.

Pianist (and Musical Director) Sarah Travis provides faultless accompaniment, and John Gregson is a wonderfully charismatic guitarist adding subtle melodic flourishes to the score. If you go to the theatre to enjoy yourself then A Song Cycle for Soho is the show for you.

A Song Cycle for Soho continues until tonight, 3 March, book here.