NODA review of Forbidden Broadway

BRIGHT LIGHTS OF BROADWAY SHINE FOR SHARNBROOK!

Review by Liza, Carol, Ethel and Barbra

I had heard wonderful things about Sharnbrook Mill Theatre and was delighted to deputise for regular District 2 rep, Richard. It was also a delight to return to Sharnbrook where I lived for some happy years whilst teaching at local schools and appearing in the village plays or folk music evenings.

Following one of the warmest welcomes I have received from a company and marvelling at the picturesque setting and superb seating and lighting in the theatre, my companion and I settled down for one of the finest evenings in Amdram we have experienced.

For those who don’t know, Forbidden Broadway in its various forms is Gerard Alessandrini’s pastiche of various Broadway hits and artistes. You don’t have to know the shows or divas to be entertained but it helps. I loved this particular version: ‘Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits’ from start to finish. From the moment gifted MD and accompanist Kaye Tompkins took her place at the glittering grand piano to the rapturously received bows at the finale, this was a spectacular and well-judged piece of theatrical magic. There was no complicated set but there was a constant stream of terrific lighting effects designed by Alex McKenzie and many wonderful costumes, often as much a parody as the songs themselves, designed by Virginia Pope. Sound quality as provided by Sandy Allen Rowlandson was excellent throughout.

Director David Midlane ensured that the pace was relentless but that the individual items did not overstay their welcome whilst choreographer Jacqueline Knighton had created some rollicking routines where the best of dancers and the less adept could shine amusingly or extravagantly in the increasingly witty numbers.

The cast was uniformly brilliant. It helped that the pastiches are true yet biting and affectionate simultaneously, but it also helped that the performers had very fine singing voices, great comic timing and a real understanding of their ‘targets.’ I would not wish to single out cast members but I thought that both the Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miserables ensembles were inspired: the Tradition parody with multiple beards was first class and the human revolve for Les Mis was hilarious.

For the record the ten fabulous cast members were Jo Baxter, Alexandra Goodbody, Robin Harris, Sue Lander, Louisa Dixon, David Passfield, Barry Thompson, Gail Thorburn, Jenny Tymon and Nilani Young. Whether the performers were being Annie, Carol Channing, Mandy Patinkin, Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, Idina Menzel, Liza Minelli, Ethel Merman or Barbra Steisand their ‘takes’ were accurate, well sung, well timed and spot on vocally. Similarly, ’Hairspray and ‘Mamma Mia’ routines lifted the pace and the energy levels when needed.

Whether Sondheim was the object of their ‘send ups’ as in ‘Into the Words’ or whether Irving Berlin’s ‘I Hear Music’ duet was the vehicle for the laughter, it all worked beautifully. ‘On my phone’ instead of ‘On my Own’ or ‘I enjoy being a cat’ let us hear the original show tunes sung to perfection whilst providing side splitting sideswipes at overblown musicals.

Often, Am Dram societies fail on this kind of piece because their own skills are insufficiently high level to justify making fun of the best professionals. No such failings were found in this very fine company.

Many congratulations to cast and crew on a marvellously entertaining evening. Constructive criticism? Although they left the audience wanting more, another 10 minutes of magical mimicry would not have gone amiss

‘What I did for Laughs’? Almost everything…and it worked to perfection.

Bravo Sharnbrook Mill Theatre Trust!