Forbidden Broadway, a revue that satirizes Broadway musicals and their stars, began as a five-person cabaret act (four singers and a pianist) in a club on the Upper West Side of New York in January 1982. The brainchild of Gerard Alessandrini, it was an immediate hit, its format allowing for (in fact, demanding) frequent infusions of new material. DRG Records began releasing albums drawn from the successive editions of the show in 1984, with the fifth volume, Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act, appearing in 1999. This 20th anniversary compilation (released, with typical cheek, 18 and a half years after the show premiered) presents highlights from those five albums, along with eight new tracks. Not surprisingly, the compilers have opted to include bits with long-lasting appeal, if only because the shows they make fun of were still running in 2000, such as The Lion King and Les Miserables. There are also evergreens such as parodies of famous Broadway divas Ethel Merman, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Carol Channing, and Barbra Streisand. Broadway fans will also recognize the impersonations of Elaine Stritch, Patti Lupone, Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, and Mandy Patinkin. You might expect that the new material would be about recent shows, but if you did, you would be wrong. Rather, it seems to include older pieces that somehow never got onto previous albums (though the tracks are newly recorded). For example, the version of "Love Changes Everything" from Aspects of Love ("I Sleep With Everyone") resurrects an early-'90s Andrew Lloyd Webber show Broadway has nearly forgotten, and the take on Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls (billed as "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Screaming" from Screamgirls) could have been performed at the first Forbidden Broadway performance in 1984 (that is, if they had someone to sing it). Maybe Alessandrini was saving his new zingers for a new album, but that's OK. Forbidden Broadway: 20th Anniversary Edition works as a "best of" for an amazingly funny show that has now run longer than most of the musicals it satirizes.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann