Review by Jason Wert
It was intended as a “pop up” show during Springfield Little Theatre’s usual downtime between seasons.
It was intended to just be a little, intimate show at a venue other than the Landers that would perhaps draw a few hundred people.
Instead, what “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits” brings is an almost perfect performance and a comedy troupe that could be one of the strongest that Springfield has ever seen.
If you aren’t familiar with “Forbidden Broadway”, it’s a show that looks at Broadway shows and musicals with a heavy satirical eye. Imagine National Lampoon reworking Cats or the folks behind the Airplane movies rewriting Rent. Nothing is off-limits to the show, and the show’s excellence comes in that no sacred cow is left unmilked by the end.
Now, while the script is a powerhouse, if you don’t have the performers that can bring the work to life, you won’t have a great show.
Somehow, director Joshua David Smith found four performers who are so great together they pulled off an almost perfect performance tonight at Nathan P. Murphy’s in downtown Springfield. Four performers, who in a span of just four weeks together, managed to become a comedy troupe with timing together that some groups never obtain in years of performances.
This quartet of Chip Holderman, Jerrod Cate, Dayna McConville, and Zoe Zelonky are so strong together that their performances elevate each other and provide an almost perfect comedy theatre experience. The level of performance does not waver at all from start to finish, whether you have an individual performer on stage or the entire troupe. This is rare for team this small; you run the risk of having someone bring down the overall show. Larger groups make it easier to hide a weak link. There is no weak link between these four.
There are moments of the show that leave you in awe of what you’re watching. Jarrod Cate’s impression of Mandy Patinkin and song about some of Patinkin’s more pretentious tendencies in performing drew cries from the audience of an encore…and honestly, he should have taken one. His performance was so sublime, so flawless, if he was performing in some kind of televised event he would find himself all over social media by the next morning.
Zoe Zelonky’s “Annie” and the revised version of the classic song “Tomorrow” comes in the opening part of the show and really helps set the tone for the night. Her performance later in the first act poking fun at some of the heavy handedness of “Wicked” provides just enough over-the-top theatrics to drill the satire home.
Zelonky & McConville’s duets are highlights of the show. West Side Story and Mamma Mia are no match for this duo.
One of the biggest pieces of this fantastic puzzle is someone you never see under the lights: Stage Manager Michelle Sturm. As you watch Forbidden Broadway, and see this quartet changing wigs and costumes for every single segment, Sturm is the only person backstage making sure every piece of costuming is in place. She’s zipping up clothes, she’s straightening wigs, she’s making sure that the flow of the show doesn’t slow down. There’s no way this show would be a powerhouse if she is not on the top of her game.
Kris Langston is a great accompanist for the show and subtle foil for the performers during their solo segments.
This show is so good that Springfield Little Theatre will have a very difficult time topping this show. The fact that a show, put together in a month, is strong enough that it is putting the entire 85th Anniversary Season on notice, testifies to the strength of the cast, crew and director of the show. Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits is so good, that it’s not just recommended, if you are someone who wants to see a show that puts touring performances at Juanita K. Hammons Hall to shame, then you must see this show.
Oh, and a postscript to this review, directed to SLT’s head Beth Domann and the powers that be: You cannot let these four performers go their separate ways without scheduling something to bring them together again. The way they meld on stage is so strong, and elevate the material so significantly, that if you don’t bring them together again you are doing a disservice to SLT and theatre fans in the area. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Forbidden Broadway 2, but they need to be on stage together again, and it needs to be soon.