Inside humor

Insider humor
Forbidden Broadway
Through July 5
Mad Cow Theatre
105 S. Magnolia Ave.
$28; 407-297-8788

Let me sum up the delights and dangers of seeing Mad Cow Theatre's current incarnation of select routines from many years' versions of Forbidden Broadway: If you know with ruthless precision the music and lyrics that Gerard Alessandrini's mordant wit parodies (including Chicago, Into the Woods, Annie, Les Miserables, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Cats and others), you are guaranteed an exhilarating and laugh-filled theatrical experience. If not, then even the four terrifically talented cast members will not be able to fully pulverize your satirical funny bone. But David Chernault, Angela Sapolis, Kate O'Neal and Kevin Kelly will nonetheless impress you with their spirited performances.

The actors are able to find the soft underbelly of their chosen targets — Broadway musicals, the writers, the stars — mixing scathing, dead-on takedowns with an abiding affection for the principals who give them so much fodder for their sardonic slings and arrows. For truly, without the pretensions and foibles of the originals, parody where art thou?

There have been two times in my life when I was the only person in the audience laughing. Once, in the 1970s, I went to see a Woody Allen movie in Richmond, Va. The Southern matinee throng surrounding me simply could not get a handle on Allen's neurotic, inside-the-Big Apple humor. Years later, I attended an early version of Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway in a downtown Boston venue. Within minutes, it became clear that the business-type crowd only came that evening because there was a hotel next door. Again, I was alone in my amused appreciation of the musical revue's on-target skewering of that season's Broadway offerings.

In any case, kudos to the wonderful cast ably directed and accompanied by Steve MacKinnon on piano. For those in the know, Forbidden Broadway is a heady brew of musical froth. For the uninitiated, catch the 2009 Tony Awards (broadcast 9 p.m. Sunday, June 7, on CBS) this weekend and then go see Forbidden Broadway. You won't be laughing alone.

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