by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
“A weekend without theatre is like a day without sunshine.” We think someone famous must have said this, if not, we will take credit for it. The Dual Critics, having seen everything in theatre in the Jacksonville area, journeyed to Fernandina Beach on July 4th for a first-time visit to the Fernandina Little Theatre (FLT) for the opening of Forbidden Broadway. The theatre has been producing shows for nineteen years, and all seats were sold out, yes all 36 seats in their modest home at 1014 Beech St. in Fernandina Beach.
This is the North Florida premier of Gerald Alessandrini’s musical spoof of famous Broadway songs and celebrities. This show did make a one-night stand with a touring company at the University of North Florida a few years back, but it wasn’t nearly as charming or as funny as the version we saw Saturday night.
Alessandrini wrote his first version of the show in 1982, and it continued for more than a quarter of a century, finally closing in March of this year. Each year the author added material from new shows with recent openings, but he always kept bringing back favorites.
FLT performed “Greatest Hits: Volume One” with seven actors doing all the roles in a ninety-minute show with one intermission. Each actor played several roles, and had many moments in the spotlight to really shine.
Ruthellen Mulberg, a theatre veteran who obviously knows her way around a stage, was impressive, with several impersonations including Lisa Minelli in “Lisa One Note”, Chita Riviera from “West Side Story”, and a marvelous Barbara Streisand in “On a Clear Day”. Ms. Mulberg also appeared in several ensemble numbers
Jean Schreiber, another FLT veteran, teamed with the with show’s Musical Director Erin DuFault to become the dancing queens of Momma Mia. She was at her best in the Les Miserables spoof, singing “I Dreamed a Show.” If you like a musical voice with vibrato, you are going to love Jean as she sings this song with enough vibrato for three Broadway shows.
Stephen France, in his FLT debut, received the first really big laughs in this show when he spoofed the impossibly high note in Les Miz, singing “It’s Too High.”
Jean Jones was very funny as Annie, a washed-up actress waiting for a better “Tomorrow.” She was equally hilarious as a purring feline, happy to be making a living in Cats.
Beverly Allen, another veteran FLT actress, makes a grand Carol Channing playing her lifetime role, Hello Dolly.
Mason Moore, one of the two youngest actors, is a very funny guy and a good singer as well, and was outstanding singing “Ambition!” which, based on Fiddler on the Roof, explains why so many actors are committed to living in New York.
The latest show to get racked over coals was Wicked which is still running on Broadway, and featured another FLT debut, by Christina Eaton with her rendition of “Defying Gravity.”
Other shows that were skewered in Forbidden Broadway style included Chicago, Into The Woods, Can-Can, Rent, Camelot, and A Chorus Line. Les Miserables received full cast treatment with several songs.
Broadway shows are also about costumes, costumes, costumes, and costumers Kate Hart and Ruthellen Mulberg creatively matched them to each character’s role. The costume changes gave the audience many additional reasons for delighted laughter. Highlights included Annie’s traditional red dress (very funny for an adult actress), Carol Channing’s sweeping white dress, ruffled dresses for the West SideStory ladies, and golden armor for the Spamalot knight.
The set was an open stage, with a minimum of hand props. The lighting by Amelia Hart was excellent, who isolated solo performers at various points on the stage and also used color used to highlight some scenes.
Erin DuFault and Denise O’Brien shared the role of pianist, and were right on the mark with musical cues.
Director Kate Hart has been involved in over 90 productions as the Director, Producer, or Stage Manager. Her vast experience is certainly evident this production.
Jacksonville theatres looking for an interesting show should check out this production. It would make a great black box production.
We have often commented on the generous grants to theatres by the Tom Nehl Fund of the Community Foundation to Jacksonville groups and apparently his helping hand for theatre extends beyond the Duval County line, as the FTL program includes a note of gratitude for his assistance with Forbidden Broadway.
This show has three more performances scheduled, on July 8, 9, and 10 and there is a good possibility it may be held over, since it is final show of this season and has been so well received. You can find additional information at www.ameliaflt.org. Call 904-277-2202 for reservations.
FORBIDDEN BROADWAY theatre review
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM