The songs are easily recognisable if you know your musical theatre.

Forbidden Broadway

Created and written by: Gerard Alessandrini

Director: Greg Homann

Musical director: Rowan Bakker

Choreographer: Clint Lesch

Designer: Jean Claude Laurent

Cast: Clint Lesch, Natasha Bambo, Deogracious Dube, Thula Gumede, Phumla Khumalo, Precious Maputle, Musa Mbaweni, Letsholo Mmoke, Unathi Mnxakwe, Karabo Thosa and Kerutse Tlhoaele

Venue: Con Cowan Theatre, UJ Bunting Road Campus

Until: May 26

Rating: ****

UJ Arts and Culture has a strong presence on the theatre circuit this year, thanks to Ashraf Johaardien’s vision and the activation of the Con Cowan Theatre at the university’s Bunting Road campus.

Already there have been runs of the plays The Quiet Violence of Dreams and Mary and the Conqueror at the new theatre.

Now, for its musical theatre programme, the department asked award-winning director Greg Homann to direct Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway.

UJ has been progressive in that they have created and produced new South African musicals with previous shows such as Jozi Ma Sweetie and Flash: A Musical Blog.

Forbidden Broadway is a good one as it covers a broad and diverse range of musicals and this is good for the students’ learning.

What’s entertaining about it is that it is a revue that pokes fun at the musical theatre genre. It’s a spoof of Broadway and West End musicals and there are many shows that are structured in this way and do something similar. Alessandrini’s revue just happens to be sharper and intelligent.

So expect parodies of show tunes, characters and plots of popular musicals such as Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Mamma Mia, Hairspray and many more. He mocks an aspect of a show’s personality or style and also targets Broadway, actors, writers and composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The songs are easily recognisable if you know your musical theatre, although you don’t necessarily have to have seen all the shows to get the gist.

The only difference is that the lyrics have been changed so it’s important to listen very carefully to understand the humour, just as it’s important for the actors to articulate well.

Guest actor Clint Lesch is exemplary in the way he encapsulates the context of this production in his over-the-top ways. His rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which has been turned to Somewhat Over Indulgent for the purpose of the show, is one of many highlights. He leads the students well and they also interpret the satire correctly.

If you think about it, the cast could just as well be a subtle spoof of the representation we’ve seen in local Broadway musical productions.

This is all done in the name of fun and comedy. And it’s a lighthearted, intelligent theatre experience, all in 60 minutes.