Review: Forbidden Broadway (Civic Light Opera)

Forbidden Broadway presented by Toronto’s Civic Light Opera Company is a musical about Broadway musicals

Forbidden Broadway at the Civic Light Opera Company (whose home theatre is tucked cleverly under the Fairview Library in North York) was full of charming surprises. Some of them I’m embargoed from discussing, at the request of the company, in order to preserve that pleasurable frisson of “That’s not….is he…oh, he is,” that the audience gets to enjoy. As a reviewer, of course, it takes a little of the fun out of the job, but since it might preserve the fun of the reader I’ll play along gladly.

Forbidden Broadway is…a musical about Broadway musicals. It’s catty, campy, snotty, snarky and fun, full of jokes that pre-suppose some amount of knowledge of musical theatre, at least the classics and the most popular of the modern musicals. If you didn’t catch Scottsboro Boys you won’t be left in the dark; if you can’t hum anything from West Side Story or Les Mis you might be lost in some sections.

Civic Light Opera Company, if you’re not already familiar, is a local community/semi-professional theatre anchored by Joe Cascone, the director/accompanist/company manager/founder/magic-maker/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. Cascone’s made of talent, and plays the score without a scrap of music in sight, vamping and melding one musical into the other. He’s obviously the driving force behind this endeavor, and – though he’s driving a car full of amateurs – he’s at least on the right road.

Interestingly, this leads to somewhat the opposite of most community theatre with which I have been familiar: the men, as a whole, have a good deal more singing talent and range than the women. Cascone and the two other men of Forbidden Broadway – David Haines & Peter Loucas – have all got the goods (and Loucas displays a surprising, well-tuned countertenor range when playing a send-up of Mandy Patinkin).

The women, while adequate, don’t seem to have quite the range. Julie Lennick is the best of the group, especially in the character roles (she’s a born character actor, and her portrayal of one theatrical icon whom I am forbidden to identify, in a duet with Hanes, left me gasping with laughter).

Andrea Strayer, the ingenue of the group, has a lovely but regrettably light voice, limiting her to sounding quite sweet (which she works to maximum effect in the protracted joke finale that I can’t tell you anything about. I can tell you about Susan Sayers spot-on Carol Channing impersonation in a number called “Dolly Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” and it’s a great number for her – she’s obviously got acting skill this show (which is all songs) doesn’t really reveal.

Even if I was the youngest audience member except for someone’s teenaged grandson, the Civic Light Opera Company was worth the schlep to North York, and Forbidden Broadway is such a funny show you’ll laugh whether you want to or not. It’s not a professional production by any stretch, but for community theatre standards, this group is worth a look.

Details

Forbidden Broadway plays at the Fairview Theatre, 35 Fairview Mall Drive in North York, until March 10, 2012
– Shows are Wed through Sun. at 8pm, except Wednesday evening performances at 7pm. A 2pm matinee is added on Sundays.
– Tickets are $28 (including HST)
– Tickets can be ordered by phone at 416-755-1717

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