Following the first Forbidden Broadway album by seven years, Forbidden Broadway, Vol. 2 should be given a subtitle to suggest its contents; in his liner notes, writer/director Gerard Alessandrini suggests Forbidden Broadway -- The Reagan Years. The off-Broadway revue that satirizes current Broadway shows, Forbidden Broadway has run annual editions since the early 1980s, and this second cast album is a roundup of the best bits from the 1985, '86, '90, and '91 shows. As such, some of the parodies were out of date on the day of release, but much of it actually has a perennial appeal. "Broadway has been up and down and up again, and of course the most obvious movement has been the conspicuous import of large British musicals (or should I say Operacals?)," writes Alessandrini, and with shows like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables seemingly set to run forever, the take-offs on them here may stay timely for quite a while, especially the appropriately lengthy medley of Les Mis parodies, which comment on the show's own excessive length. ("At the end of the play, we're another year older," the cast sings.) Other shows, though no longer running, are memorable enough that the parodies remain funny, notably Into the Woods, which is turned into a Stephen Sondheim attack called "Into the Words." Continuing trends also contribute to the album's ongoing relevance, such as the gradual homogenization of Broadway reflected in the tendency to bring in celebrities, which is commented on in "Almost Like Vegas in New York," sung to the tune of "Almost Like Being in Love" by impressionists portraying comedian Jackie Mason and Robert Goulet. And there are plenty of other wicked impressions -- "Patti LuPone" sings "I Get a Kick Out of Me," "George Hearn" of La Cage Aux Folles declares "I Ham What I Ham," "Mandy Patinkin" emotes through "Somewhat Overindulgent" (i.e., "[Somewhere] Over the Rainbow"), and best of all, those two Hispanic stars who are always being mistaken for each other, "Chita Rivera" and "Rita Moreno," have at each other to the strains of "America" from West Side Story. Occasionally, it takes a Broadway fan's knowledge to make the joke connect; in order to find "Teeny Todd" funny, it would helpful for you to know that in 1989 there was a Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd that came only a decade after the first production and was a much more modest staging than the grandiose original. Much of the material, however, is amusing not only beyond its specific time period, but beyond Broadway. You don't have to know much about David Mamet's play Speed-the-Plow to recognize the Madonna impersonation in Alessandrini's parody "Madonna's Brain" (to the tune of "The Rain in Spain"), and the intended singer of "Liza One-Note" (to the tune of "Johnny One-Note") isn't hard to spot. Call this, then, Forbidden Broadway's greatest hits of the late '80s and early '90s.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann