by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Theatre Jacksonville opened a real December treat with this hilarious staging of “Forbidden Broadway.” It will be on stage at 2032 San Marco until December 15. Call 396-4425 for reservations.
“Forbidden Broadway” is a collection of short selections from musical theatre that spoofs and satirizes. Gerard Alessandrini created his first version of the show in 1982 and it continued until March of 2010 when it closed. It was revived in 2012 and is still going strong in New York. Each year the author added material from new musicals that opened in the Big Apple but he always kept bringing back favorites. Theatre Jacksonville has Lee Hamby as Director/Choreographer/Costume Designer in the production of “Forbidden Broadway Greatest Hits: Volume 1.”
There are ten performers doing all the roles in this ninety-minute show with one intermission. Each performer played multiple roles and had many moments in the spotlight to really shine. Creative and colorful costumes ranged from elegant sequined dresses for divas to rough clothing for peasants, often evoking laughter and adding visual punch to the scenes.
Staci Grant, a theatre veteran who really knows her way around a stage, was impressive in impersonations of Liza Minnelli, Rita Moreno, and Eponine in “Les Miz” and was in several ensemble numbers. She was at her funniest as Annie, a washed up actress hoping for a better tomorrow.
Kathy Sanders, another veteran performer, entertained us as Chita Rivera, Bebe Neuwirth from Chicago, one of the dancing queens in “ Mamma Mia,” and Donna McKechnie from “Chorus Line.”
Katie Swider, who less than two years ago was studying theatre at FSU, is already a much in demand performer on our local stages. She excelled in a number of roles but her greatest moment, in our opinion, was her take-charge version of Ethel Merman.
Rachel Organes, who appeared in “Seussical the Musical” at TJ a few seasons back, recently returned to Jacksonville. Two of her roles were outstanding, as Cosette in “Les Miz” and as Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly.” She was fabulous as Channing, looking very much like the young version of Carol (who is now 93 years old and alive but not doing Dolly anymore).
Michael Fritton is a very funny guy and he has made stage appearances at Theatre Jacksonville (lucky for them) in ”Dearly Departed,” “A Vampire Reflects,” and “I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change.” He delights his fans in this show as Tevye in ”Fiddler on the Roof” singing “Ambition” and also appears as Tim Curry in “Spamalot,” and Billy Flynn in “Chicago.” And Fritton spoofing the impossibly high note in “Les Miz” while singing “It’s Too High” was a show stopper.
David Jon Davis was very impressive in three comic role, displaying a remarkable vocal range as Mandy in “Mandy Patinkin,” as a bewildered Phantom of the Opera, and as Cameron Mackintosh, the British producer hawking his souvenirs.
We remember Juliet Fixel from “Hair” a few seasons back at Players By The Sea. She has returned to Jacksonville after a couple of years acting and directing in New York, and is a great addition to the local theatre scene. Ms Fixel went up very very high to play Idina Menzel from “Wicked.” Of all the roles she performed, we, along with the audience, really enjoyed her appearance as Barbara Streisand best.
Daniel Austin and Brandon Mayes are two young actors making their Theatre Jacksonville debuts. We recently saw both of them in “The Rocky Horror” show at the Edge. They performed together in two segments, one as Fosse Dancers in “Chicago” and in “Rent,” and appeared in multiple roles in a number of other segments. Both are talented dancers and singers and you will be seeing more of their talents on local stages.
Sean Segerstrom is a Jacksonville University student, whom we saw in ABET’s “After Ashley.” He plays two roles that will forever be on his resume. How often do you get to be Stephen Sondheim in “Into the Woods” and a male cat from “Cats” complete with whiskers and yes, even a tail.
Director Lee Hamby was assisted with the many gorgeous costumes by Tracy Olin and Angela McGill. Congratulations to Theatre Jacksonville for all the new talent you are encouraging with all your new back stage personnel, with Lighting Design by Sarah Redmond and Carl Vorwerk, Shannon Jones as Production Manager, Ron Shreve as Assistant Director, Megan Georgeo as Stage Manager, Daniel Austin as Dance Captain. The Spot Light Operator was Laurel Wilson, Sound Board Operator was Pierce McRae, and Properties were handled by Pat Gorman and Maggie O’Conner. Also, applause goes to a volunteer who has been there show after show, year after year, Light Board Operator Gloria Pepe.
What can we say that has not already been said about Musical Director Laura Peden and Director Lee Hamby? They are just great! Don’t miss “Forbidden Broadway” for total entertainment by a totally dedicated cast and crew.
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM