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“Forbidden Broadway” + Cosmo Cabaret Cast = Hiliarity

Four “Forbidden Broadway” characters at Cosmo Cabaret have director Selby (r) and musical director Sobelmen (l) surrounded

Cosmopolitan Cabaret opened with the September 2008 to September 2009 run of “Forever Plaid,” which remains the biggest success as a show. “Forbidden Broadway,” which opened Friday night, may just rival “Plaid.”

There are lots of similarities. Both have talented creators, lots of hysterically funny scenes, songs, costuming, props and more.

"Forbidden Broadway" creator and continuing writer, Garrard Alessandrini, aims his sharp pen at mostly easy targets but in incredibly funny ways. You may never have seen “Annie,” “Les Miserables” or “Lion King,” but are still very aware of them and lots of other Broadway shows through popular culture.

Cast of “Forbidden Broadway” as four of the characters.

Both have four very talented actors, who understand and are so good at delivering the material. There are two men in “Forbidden Broadway,” Mark Ginsburg and Jerry Lee, and two women, Jessica Reiner-Harris and Melissa Wolfklain, all credited as “cast.”

(Clockwise, from left) Jerry Lee, Melissa WolfKlain, Marc Ginsburg and Jessica Reiner-Harris

New York transplant Ginsburg, debuting with California Musical Theatre and the Cosmo Cabaret does a Jean Valjean performed by an actor overtaxed by the wrong key among the many roles for which he received long ovations.

Jerry Lee, Jessica Reiner-Harris and Marc Ginsburg parodying “Chicago”

Lee, who has been doing great things (“In Trousers,” “Musical of Musicals…,” “They’re Playing our Song”) since his return to his hometown after graduating from Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts a couple of years ago.

A Phantom Jerry Lee

I started to say “New to Sacramento,” but Reiner-Harris is a hometown actor who has been quite busy acting, it’s just that she has been acting elsewhere. Her daring-to-take-on-the-diva Streisand is one of the priceless moments in the production. Reiner-Harris is one of those great discoveries for her home town theater scene.

Jessica Reiner-Harris, Marc Ginsburg and Jerry Lee

Back for a third time at Cosmo Cabaret is Wolfklain (“A Grand Night for Singing,” “Suds”). The lights will go up on Wolfklain as Annie, an over-the-hill Annie, and the audience begins to chuckle at just the first sight of her character. They end in fits of laughter by the end of the song. Wolfklain definitely charms with her third Cosmo Cabaret production.

Jerry Lee and Melissa WolfKlain

In a “West Side Story” spoof, Reiner-Harris and Wolfklain do Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno as dueling stage version Anita verses film version Anita which had both the characters and the audience yelling AYE! AYE! AYE!

Melissa WolfKlain and Jessica Reiner-Harris parodying “West Side Story”

Musical director Graham Sobelman (“Graham-A-Rama”) brings out great musical performances and also performs the lively piano score.

The characters would not be complete without the very character-defining costume creation for each character by Alvin Colt, working with the hair, wig and makeup designs of Christine Conklin.

Colt, who had an astounding career in costume design starting in the 1940’s, has spent 15 years designing for “Forbidden Broadway,” receiving a Drama Desk award in 2005 while in his late eighties. The pictures speak for themselves in regard to Colt’s designs.

Marc Ginsburg parodying “The Lion King” in a Alvin Colt costume.

The same thing can be said for Conklin’s hair wig, and makeup design. This is also her third production at Cosmo (“Suds,” “Bingo”), while also designing for Music Circus (“Camelot,” “Oliver!” and “I Do! I Do!”).

Marc Ginsburg and Melissa WolfKlain parodying “Hairspray,” wigged out by Christine Connklin

With all those costumes and costume changes someone is needed to keep them in order and get the actors changed – often in record time – and that would be Gabriella Nance as costume coordinator and head dresser. Nance costumed “Plaid” as well.

Three long-time Cosmo Cabaret associates complete the experience of “Forbidden Broadway.” Michael Peters has created a minimal budget-friendly single set, yet it fits so well with the whole humor of the look of an Off-Broadway production. His design is assisted by fellow longtime Cosmo Cabaret associate Sally Slocum’s lighting. Robert Sereno continues to engineer the great sound of Cosmo Cabaret productions.

Melissa WolfKlain parodying ‘Les Misérables,” with scenic design by Michael Peters

Pulling all this together is director William Selby. Sacramento Press contributor Barry Wisdom has an excellent interview with Selby in his preview of “Forbidden Broadway.”

“Forbidden” has something else in common with “Plaid” in that both have several creative folks that have long histories with their respective productions. Selby has been an award winning actor, assistant director and now director, of numerous productions of “Forbidden.” His sense of timing, especially critical with this humor, is great.

With “Forbidden Broadway,” everything – the songs, music, costuming and acting – is geared to make the audience laugh. The Cosmopolitan Cabaret production of the Off-Broadway phenomenon hits on all levels and should become a Sacramento phenomenon.

Reiner-Harris says it all in her bio.

“(She) wants to thank the ridiculously fun cast and crew for making her laugh until she cries and snorts.”

With opening night’s audience giving loud ovations for scene after scene, I would say the audience felt the same way.

“Forbidden Broadway”    Cosmopolitan Cabaret   California Musical Theatre
Through March 18th, 2012
Information and Tickets

 

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