Category Archives: D-F

Dear Evan Hansen

DEHOriginal Broadway Cast, 2017 (Atlantic ) 4 Stars (4 / 5) A musical that unapologetically wears its heart on its sleeve, Dear Evan Hansen is the most high profile theater work to date from the songwriting team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Set in a nondescript modern suburb, the show centers around a high school introvert with intense anxiety issues who finds himself involved in a misunderstanding which, partly due to the double-edged sword of social media and its galvanizing impact, snowballs into a giant lie that does both good and harm. Though the character of Evan is a little too broadly painted in his neuroses, and the show’s commentary on the effect of social media in modern culture doesn’t go quite as deep as it should, Pasek and Paul’s score is memorable and compelling, managing to wax poetic without being too on-the-nose in its imagery. Ben Platt, in the title role, does the majority of the vocal heavy lifting here, delivering a fully rounded and thrilling performance. It helps that he’s given the best songs in the score: the show’s biggest hit, “Waving Through a Window,” as well as the crushing “Words Fail” and the lovely if slightly heavy-handed “For Forever.” Platt is well supported by Rachel Bay Jones as Evan’s endearing, struggling, single mother; and Laura Dreyfuss, refreshingly understated as Zoe, the object of Evan’s affections, who may be harmed most by Evan’s lie. The cast album includes minimal dialogue, opting instead to present each song as a stand-alone item. While this doesn’t harm the flow of the recording, and has helped a few of the songs to break out as popular hits, two songs suffer from such treatment: “Good For You,” a cathartic release of Evan’s mom’s pent-up frustration, here plateaus in its anger, with no release; and the offbeat humor of “Sincerely Me” comes across as somewhat tasteless out of context. That said, the rest of the album works very well. Alex Lacamoire’s orchestrations (with additional work by Christopher Jahnke) are appropriately pop-oriented, and Justin Paul’s vocal arrangements never go overboard with vocal pyrotechnics. The restraint in their work separates DEH from many other contemporary scores, allowing the emotional weight of the piece to really resonate with the listener. And there are plenty of emotions here to resonate. — Matt Koplik

Dogfight

dogfightOriginal Off-Broadway Cast, 2013 (Ghostlight) 3 Stars (3 / 5) Many musical scores can stand perfectly well as cast recordings, separate from their staged productions. Others lose something when deprived of the character and plot development revealed in the shows’ libretti. For all its virtues, Dogfight — songs by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Peter Duchan — falls within the latter group. Based on the 1991 film, it’s the story of some Marines tearing up San Francisco in late 1963, the night before they ship out to Vietnam. They plan a “dogfight,”  a contest in which each jarhead contributes fifty bucks to a kitty that will be won by the guy who brings the ugliest date to the party.  A nasty game, indeed — and the boys, including lead Eddie Birdlace (Derek Klena), appear as insensitive, hot-blooded louts. Fresh out of boot camp and convinced that they’re invincible, their pickup lines in the song “Hey, Good-Lookin'” are lies and braggadocio. Eddie finds a waitress, Rose (the sweet-voiced Lindsay Mendez), and pressures her to “Come to a Party” while privately exulting over his chances of winning the dogfight. Rose, for her part, is thrilled to be going out with a boy; in “Nothing Short of Wonderful,” she dithers over what to wear in staccato phrases, sounding like a mashup of Cinderella and the Baker’s Wife from Into The Woods. (The opening vamp of the title song also echoes that Sondheim show.) Clearly, this evening will not go well for Rose. But, sometime between the invitation and the party, Eddie has a change of heart that isn’t part of the score, although it’s described in the recording notes. The libretto shows us how Eddie grows to like Rose as they walk to the party, but none of that is in the score; on the album, he jumps from acting like a complete cad to trying unsuccessfully to take Rose home before the judging, in order to save her the embarrassment. Similarly, the recording doesn’t include Eddie’s later apology or indicate how the relationship progresses. Still, there’s much to appreciate here. Pasek and Paul know how to craft effective theater songs with nuance and layers. A few of the lyrics are a little too facile in telegraphing emotions or a sense of time and place, but most are very well written. The music ranges from early-sixties pop to Rose’s folk songs and powerful, revealing character numbers. “Come to a Party” works on multiple levels as variously sung by the callous Marines, the naive Rose, or Marcy, a knowing prostitute (played with sledgehammer bluntness by Annaleigh Ashford). The boys’ cockiness is evident as they take the town in “Some Kinda Time” and plan their big homecoming in “Hometown Hero’s Ticker Tape Parade.” Reality shatters their hopes, and Eddie’s devastating “Come Back” portrays what the war has done to him. But Rose is the real star here, and her journey comes through best in the score. She’s alternately shy and manic at first, then furious at the “Dogfight,” and soul-searching in “Pretty Funny.” The show’s emotional crux is found in her song “Before It’s Over,” when she realizes she has somehow benefited from the dreadful experience. As noted above, Eddie’s character growth isn’t charted as well in the songs, but this is still a solid score that tells a compelling story. — Laura Frankos

Death Takes a Holiday

deathOriginal Off-Broadway Cast, 2011 (PS Classics) 2 Stars (2 / 5) On paper, Death Takes a Holiday probably looked like a wonderful idea for a musical. Composer-lyricist Maury Yeston has done some very admirable work, and audiences have long been intrigued with the story told here — based on a play by Alberto Casella that has received several adaptations, most famously as a 1934 film that starred Fredric March. So what went wrong? After the success of Titanic, Yeston and librettist Peter Stone chose to create an intimate musical inspired by Casella’s tale of a weekend during which Death puts aside his scythe and falls for a mortal girl. (Thomas Meehan joined the project after Stone’s death.) As it turned out, the plot was the first stumbling block for the adapters; the list of successful fantasy musicals is a short one, and the concept here is a whopper to swallow. Still, a strong opening number can get an audience to accept darn near anything — but Yeston disappoints with “In the Middle of Your Life/Nothing Happened.” Instead of being made to understand what it is about Grazia (Jill Paice) that causes Death (Kevin Earley) to stay his hand when she’s thrown from a car, we’re wincing at the bare exposition of the  lyrics: “What is that darkness I see ahead?” “We’re going into a spin!” Also wince-inducing is the line, “Nothing can go wrong for her.” (Did they really sing that? Yup.) Nor do we buy it when Death, impersonating a Russian prince,  tells Grazia’s father (Michael Siberry) of his desire for a vacation. Earley, who took over the role during preview performances when Julian Ovenden developed vocal problems, has a terrific voice, but its timbre isn’t well suited to the the Grim Reaper’s darker musical moments. He’s more effective in the lighter “Alive!” discovering the joys of breakfast, and in the romantic numbers with Paice, a solid Grazia. Oddly, the score’s best songs center on an unseen character: Grazia’s dead brother, Roberto. Major Fenton (Matt Cavenaugh) sees something in Prince Sirki’s eyes that eerily remind him of “Roberto’s Eyes” when his friend was shot down; and Rebecca Luker, as the mother, tells Sirki what death does to a family in the devastating “Losing Roberto.” The former conveys terror far better than characters intoning “Death is in the house!” and the latter lets Sirki truly know the pain he inflicts with each fatality, effectively leading to Earley’s heartfelt big number, “I Thought That I Could Live.” Would that the rest of the score matched the quality of these songs. Yeston’s melodies are lovely, with a nice Continental air (aside from a shimmy designed to get the cast dancing), but it’s hard to get past the often clunky lyrics. — Laura Frankos

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

dirty-rottenOriginal Broadway Cast 2005 (Ghostlight) 4 Stars (4 / 5) David Yazbek’s Broadway scores are just plain fun, whether it’s the frenetic farce of Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown or the blue-collar humor of The Full Monty. For Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (book by Jeffrey Lane, based on the 1988 film), Yazbek wrote a genuine, old-fashioned musical comedy in which  the various songs put on as many guises as the con-men characters. There are pop pastiches, a scatological list song presented with Cowardesque elegance, a rueful ballad, a samba, and the most vulgar “I want” song in musical history, along with several numbers that require the performers to use accents outrageous enough to start another Franco-Prussian war. For all these varied styles, the score is well-tailored to the characters, and the excellent cast delivers. The scoundrels are the suave Lawrence Jameson (John Lithgow) and the crass Freddy Benson, the latter a small-time grifter eager for bigger scams. Klutzy heiress Christine Colgate (Sheri Rene Scott) is their mark, with Joanna Gleason and Gregory Jbara as the obligatory comic secondary couple. (I told you it’s a traditional musical comedy.) The versatile Lithgow assumes personae ranging from a dignified pseudo-prince to a sadistic Austrian shrink, yet still achieves a believable wistfulness in “Love Sneaks In.” Tony-winner Butz salivates over the “Great Big Stuff” he craves (“I wanna be like Trump!”), shrieks as mad Prince Ruprecht, and, with Scott, croons an anatomy lesson in “Love Is My Legs.” Scott pairs well with both tricksters and soars in the zippy “Here I Am.” (Yazbek is a fan of Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter’s skill with internal rhymes; they’d approve his work here.) Gleason and Jbara make the most of their numbers, especially the absurd yet sexy “Like Zis/Like Zat.” Harold Wheeler’s orchestrations have the right comic-caper tone for the proceedings, and the vocal arrangements by Yazbek and Ted Sperling let the ensemble punctuate the score with jazzy exclamation points. The recording includes two demos by Yazbek, plus Scott in a lovely version of “Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True” — a surprisingly pretty song with Butz’s comic verses removed. There’s also a bit of dialogue from Lithgow, warning listeners just before the tracks that reveal the final twists — the likes of which we haven’t encountered since The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The title of the show’s opening number is “Give Them What They Want.” I want more David Yazbek musicals. — Laura Frankos

Daddy Long Legs

daddy-long-legsOriginal Off-Broadway Cast, 2015 (Ghostlight) 3 Stars (3 / 5) In Jean Webster’s 1912 novel Daddy-Long-Legs, Jerusha Abbott is an orphan whose intelligence prompts orphanage trustee Jervis Pendleton to pay for her education. He requests monthly reports on her studies through letters from her, though he has made it clear that he will not reply, remaining anonymous. Ultimately, she discovers he is her roommate’s highly attractive uncle. The novel’s success inspired a play, a 1951 London musical (Love From Judy), and four films. (The Fred Astaire movie Daddy Long Legs is far removed from the original.) The challenge for any adapter is the book’s epistolary style; the reader sees Jerusha’s experiences through her highly personable missives, and falls for her as Jervis does. How to translate a bunch of letters to the stage? The obvious answer is to open up the story, crowding the stage with multiple sets and lots of classmates and friends who are referred to in the book. But John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (songs) pared their musical to the bare bones: Jerusha, Jervis, and those letters, which comprise most of Jerusha’s songs, performed by Megan McGinnis with a fine sense of developing maturity. The letters are also the indicrect source of the songs written for Jervis (Paul Alexander Nolan),  as they represent his reactions to them. The greatest strength of the score is the arc of these letter songs. In “Like Other Girls,” Jerusha frets about fitting in, given her humble background, and she bemoans her ignorance of the classics in the delightful “Things I Don’t Know.” Jervis believably moves from reserved philanthropy (“She Thinks I’m Old”) to following Jerusha’s syllabus to wondering “What Does She Mean By Love?” Gordon convincingly explains Jervis’s reluctance to emotional attachments, a key reason why he keeps his identity secret even after meeting Jerusha in person. There are other gems — the sprightly “My Manhattan,” a valentine to New York, and the agonizing “Graduation Day,” when Jerusha’s heart breaks because she thinks her mysterious benefactor is a no-show. (He’s there, of course, and also hurting.) Not everything works. The opening is somewhat mired in exposition, especially Jerusha’s impersonation of another orphan. Jervis’ realization number, “Charity,” lacks the emotional punch it needs, and the finale, “All This Time,” is far too understated; we’re invested in this pair, and we want a bigger payoff.  Gordon’s melodies are intimate and sweet, played by piano, cello and guitar. The score is not period, but it fits the property in other respects.  A final note: Those who grew up with the novel may wonder why, in the musical, Jerusha doesn’t change her hated first name, foisted on her at the orphanage. Paul Gordon has said he wrote a song for that scene, but it didn’t work well — and also, unlike the character, he and Caird like the name “Jerusha.” — Laura Frankos

The Drowsy Chaperone

Drowsy-ChaperoneOriginal Broadway Cast, 2006 (Ghostlight) 3 Stars (3 / 5) This might be the first Broadway musical with commentary written into the script. Alone in his apartment, a musical theater devotee anonymously named Man in Chair plays the recording of one of his favorites, the (fictional) 1920s romp The Drowsy Chaperone. He then proceeds to provide footnotes on the stars and writers as we watch the show come to life in his apartment. On stage, it all worked beautifully and hilariously. With its dynamic original cast and inventive staging, The Drowsy Chaperone was unique in that it allowed those of us who adore musicals to see ourselves depicted on stage, while also giving us the benefit of watching a delightfully silly musical. But when taken out of the frame of the production, the score, by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, proves to be merely decent. Though the songs are cute in their reminiscences of the jazzy musicals of the ’20s, they don’t move beyond hommage. The lyrics can be daffy and quirky (“Show Off”), but they never really channel the wit and sophistication of Lorenz Hart or Ira Gershwin. The music is light but fun, much helped by Larry Blank’s peppy, period appropriate orchestrations. The ensemble, clearly having a blast, revels in old school camp and bravado, and elevates the lyrics so that they seem more humorous than they are. Danny Burstein tastefully hams it up in “I Am Aldolpho,” Beth Leavel gleefully warbles Garland-style in “As We Stumble Along,” and Sutton Foster uses her star power to great effect in “Bride’s Lament.” But it’s co-librettist Bob Martin as the Man in Chair who shines brightest here. Though he has no song of his own, Martin offers anecdotes and opinions on the show within the show and its performers throughout the album. His commentary is hilarious and inventive, delivered with just the right touch of knowledge and enthusiasm. Overall, The Drowsy Chaperone is a highly enjoyable show and a fun album, but to quote the Man in Chair, “just ignore the lyrics.” — Matt Koplik

Dearest Enemy

Dearest-Enemy1Studio Cast, 1981 (Beginners Records/Bayview) 4 Stars (4 / 5) A minor milestone in the history of American musical theater, Dearest Enemy (1925) was the first book show with a score entirely by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It was a big success despite its seemingly killjoy subject matter, the American Revolution. Of course, even though George Washington was on hand as one of the characters, the show didn’t really focus on war: Its leading characters are a spunky American girl and a British officer, whose romance has a happy ending. Poised engagingly somewhere between operetta and musical comedy, this “baby-grand opera” was notably more clever than most ’20s shows, with a cheeky and witty book by Herbert Fields and a score that belies its age. “Here in My Arms” and, perhaps, “Bye and Bye” are the only items that gained any lasting popularity, in part because the remainder of the songs are worked so gracefully into the action; there’s a hint of period pastiche in numbers like “Heigh-ho, Lackaday” and “Where the Hudson River Flows.” This London studio recording of the score is flawed only in that the singers are accompanied just by piano and the overture is omitted. The cast boasts no star names — a supporting player named Jane Powell is obviously not the Jane Powell — but everyone is quite on top of the material. In particular, Michelle Summers as Betsy Burke manages to combine modern and archaic vocal styles with effortless charm. A lovely show gets much of its due here. — Richard Barrios

Dearest-Enemy2Studio Cast, 2013 (New World Records, 2CDs) 4 Stars (4 / 5) To anyone wondering why it took nearly nine decades to come up with a complete Dearest Enemy, read the excellent notes that accompany this fine recording.  As with so many musicals of an earlier age, even some of the big hits, the parts and orchestrations were either lost or in fragmentary shape. Enter Larry Moore, who reconstructed the score from various extant pieces and, when necessary, found entirely valid ways to bridge the remaining gaps. (At one point, a little Tchaikovsky gets tossed into the mix. Well, why not?) With David Brophy conducting the Orchestra of Ireland and a fine cast, we now have as definitive an Enemy as could be imagined. If it perhaps lacks a bit of the conviction of the earlier British recording, everyone performs with spirit and charm. The orchestra and ensemble sound luscious; Annalene Beechey and James Cleverton are dandy lovers; and Kim Criswell, as Mrs. Murray, manages to keep the excesses at bay and stay in character. Everyone else is equally good, some dialogue is included to give a fair sense of the show, and there’s even a guest star: Stephen Rea, in the spoken role of George Washington. A major work has been stirringly served here, as have Rodgers and Hart and, really, everyone who wants to know about the delights of 1920s musical theater. — R.B.

Fun Home

Fun-HomeOriginal Broadway Cast,  2015 (PS Classics) 5 Stars (5 / 5) Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home may seem like strange fodder for a Broadway musical. A memoir in the form of a graphic novel, it chronicles Bechdel’s coming out as a lesbian during her freshman year of college — shortly before her father, whom she discovers is a closeted homosexual, commits suicide. But creators Jeanine Tesori, Broadway’s premier female composer, and playwright Lisa Kron, here functioning as both librettist and lyricist, created a dazzling memory musical with a score that is unassuming, yet powerful. The show is narrated by Alison as an adult, played by a grounded Beth Malone; she is struggling to write the memoir as she sorts through her memories, some more vivid than she would like. Flowing in and out of various decades, the songs are variously timely (the faux-’70s-pop “Raincoat of Love”) and timeless (“Telephone Wire,” Bechdel’s recollection of her last moments with her father), all of them beautifully supported by John Clancy’s subtle, elegant orchestrations. Fun Home is a powerful piece that’s given a full, beautiful treatment on the cast recording, thanks to a generous amount of included dialogue. As the doomed father, Bruce, Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris is terrifying and pitiful. Judy Kuhn, as his long suffering wife, Helen, is beautifully restrained in “Days and Days,” a reminiscence of her misused life. Emily Skeggs is adorably awkward as Alison in her college years; but youngster Sydney Lucas, who plays Allison as a child, is the show’s secret weapon. Shedding the stereotype that shadows most child actors, Lucas is mature and strong and in complete control of her performance. Her rendition of “Ring of Keys,” in which a young Alison observes a masculine delivery woman in a diner and experiences her first moment of self-recognition in another person, is the ultimate highlight of the show. That song, like Fun Home as a whole, is destined to become a classic. — Matt Koplik

Forbidden Hollywood

Forbidden-HollywoodLos Angeles Cast, 1995 (DRG) 3 Stars (3 / 5) Here, Gerard Alessandrini has as much fun with Hollywood excess as with Broadway idiocy. But this recording differs from the Forbidden Broadway albums in one crucial respect: It’s live, and that’s a mistake. The audience keeps howling at sight gags listeners can’t fathom (like Dietrich’s arm falling off in “Falling Apart Again”). The satirical targets are a little strange, too; some numbers aim at movies that were new at the time (Braveheart, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump), but nearly half the material clobbers various aspects of decades-old film version of classic Broadway musicals — the color filters in South Pacific, Barbra Streisand’s miscasting in Hello, Dolly! That said, much of it is a riot, and Jason Graae’s impression of Brando singing is as hilarious the twentieth time as the first. Gerry McIntyre is a flawless Louis Armstrong, a funny Whoopi Goldberg, a catatonic Keanu Reeves, and more. Christine Pedi, an unparalleled Liza in several Forbidden Broadways, gets unusually rich material here (“Mein Film Career”). And Suzanne Blakeslee, as Marni Nixon dubbing Audrey Hepburn, does justice to one of the funniest pieces of material Alessandrini has ever written.  — Marc Miller

Forbidden Broadway

FB-originalOriginal Off-Off-Broadway Cast, 1982 (DRG) 3 Stars (3 / 5) For four decades, Gerard Alessandrini’s Off-and Off-Off-Broadway revues lampooning Broadway hits and personalities have been a reliable source of merriment. “Wicked” is the adjective most often applied to these knowing parodies of show tunes and celebrities, but there’s usually affection at their base. More than that, Alessandrini’s a talented lyricist in his own right, particularly adept at turning a well-known lyric or show title on its head with a subtle tweak — e.g., “I Wonder What the King Is Drinking Tonight,” “Into the Words,” “Rant.” And his revues have showcased some of New York’s brightest talents, young pros with great gifts for mimicry. Of course, there’s no way to duplicate the visual components that send audiences into uncontrollable laughter, such as the hilarious costumes (often by the legendary Alvin Colt) and tiny sets spoofing enormous ones. Since the FB cast recordings are essentially comedy albums and repeated listening can diminish the jokes, they may linger on your CD shelves for long intervals, but they’re fun to revisit as a reminder of the ridiculous foibles of a given season. This first Forbidden Broadway album is one of the best, though by far the shortest at 40 minutes. Alessandrini usually writes one entirely original title song for each edition of the show, and there’s a particularly apt one here, with lyrics such as: “There’s a Great White Way / Where the white is gray / And the great is only okay …” He’s also in the cast, doing a killer Topol in “Ambition.” The invaluable Nora Mae Lyng is a brassy Ann Miller and a brassier Merman, future indie-film star Chloe Webb a pert Andrea McArdle, and Bill Carmichael a funny emcee announcing, “Hats off, here they come, those . . . bankable stars.” As always, the one-piano accompaniment (here by musical director Fred Barton) manages to sound like a whole orchestra. Subsequent FB albums are more complete and more nastily funny, but this one has a hottest-new-show-in-town oomph. It also has that great Merrily We Roll Along parody poster art on its cover.– Marc Miller

FB-compilationCompilation Album, 1991 (DRG) 3 Stars (3 / 5) For the best stuff in this compilation of Forbidden Broadway material from 1985 to 1991, check out Toni DiBuono capturing Patti LuPone down to the last self-indulgent nuance (“I Get a Kick Out of Me”); an ingenious My Fair Lady parody (“I Strain in Vain to Train Madonna’s Brain”) inspired by Madonna’s Broadway stint in Speed the Plow; and Kevin Ligon as an amazing Mandy Patinkin (“Somewhat Overindulgent”). There are also winning performances by Michael McGrath and Karen Murphy. Not all of the tracks are for everybody; you have to have seen the original M. Butterfly, for instance, to appreciate the satiric puzzlement over its success. A backhanded salute to The Phantom of the Opera is a bit compromised because Andrew Lloyd Webber wouldn’t allow his music to be used without alteration, but the righteous indignation expressed over a relatively fallow era in Broadway musical history makes for a very entertaining hour-plus of listening. — M.M.

FB-ChanningForbidden Broadway, Volume 3 — Off-Off-Broadway Cast, 1993 (DRG) 2 Stars (2 / 5) This third edition’s opening number is weak, a CD-only appearance by Carol Channing and a stageful of imitators. But some first-class stuff follows: devastating slaps at Petula Clark and David Cassidy in Blood Brothers, Suzanne Blakeslee’s astonishing evocation of Julie Andrews, and Craig Wells’ hilarious put-down of Michael Crawford. On the whole, however, that season’s shows weren’t as ripe for parody as those of other seasons. Dustin Hoffman as Shylock filtered through Rain Man doesn’t hold up, and Topol’s stodginess in Fiddler was old news even in ’93; so was Robert Goulet’s Vegas slickness. Still, the intermittent pleasures keep coming, including quick riffs on the scenery chewing of Nathan Lane and Faith Prince in Guys and Dolls, a knockdown punch at Liliane Montevecchi, and an efficient torching of Miss Saigon.  — M.M.

FB-Strikes-BackForbidden Broadway Strikes Back!  — Off-Broadway Cast, 1996 (DRG) 4 Stars (4 / 5) A luxurious 73 minutes of what might be Gerard Alessandrini’s most consistent bouquet of parodies, this edition benefits from top-flight talent. The opening number (“Parody Tonight”) serves up Tom Plotkin’s expert Nathan Lane, Christine Pedi’s gurgling Liza, Donna English’s sneering Zoe Caldwell, and Bryan Batt’s vapid John Davidson in State Fair beaming through “Oh, What a Beautiful Moron!” It’s an auspicious start, and the recording seldom flags from there. There are digs at Harold Prince’s enormous Show Boat, the failed promise of Big, and casting prospects for the upcoming Kiss Me, Kate revival (Pedi’s Bernadette Peters and Batt’s Mandy Patinkin duet in “So Miscast”). English does the best Julie Andrews you’ve ever heard in an extended pummeling of Victor/Victoria (with the Tony nominating committee warbling, “Victor/Victoria, we will ignore-ee-ya”), and a brilliant parody of Rent encapsulates the frustrations of that show’s dissenters. Even the arrangements are funny; listen to the Sondheimisms in the King and I send-up. The album is a hoot, and there’s a terrific bonus track: English as Julie again, in a parody of Star! that’s truly hilarious.  — M.M.

FB-Spoof OdysseyForbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey — Off-Broadway Cast, 2000 (DRG) 3 Stars (3 / 5) This edition averages out slightly below the series’ general level of inspiration. The first few tracks evaporate, and we don’t get a direct hit until the disembowelment of The Music Man, featuring a very funny Danny Gurwin. Other choice bits: a number that deals with Disney’s downsizing of Beauty and the Beast; Christine Pedi’s slaughtering of Liza Minnelli, not to mention her uncanny turns as Patti LuPone and Gwen Verdon; and an extended riff on Aida that will tickle even those unfamiliar with the show. Alessandrini’s take on Cheryl Ladd in Annie Get Your Gun (“I’ve No Business in Show Business”) epitomizes his art, and Tony Nation’s spoof of James Carpinello in Saturday Night Fever (“Stayin’ Away”) is a deft shot at an easy target, but the digs at Sondheim and Streisand don’t land as smoothly as usual. The album sends customers out on a high note with “76 Hit Shows,” but there wasn’t much to celebrate on Broadway in 2000, so it seems disingenuous to pretend that there was.  — M.M.

FB-20th20th Anniversary Edition, 2000 (DRG) 4 Stars (4 / 5) If you’re not a Forbidden Broadway completist but want to know what all the fuss is about, this compilation, featuring eight previously unreleased tracks, is just the thing. Both the strengths and occasional weaknesses of the format come through ringingly, and the prodigiously talented cast offers more variety than a single-edition album would. Not all the spoofs are top-drawer; that Carol Channing parody really should be retired. What a pleasure, though, to re-encounter Christine Pedi’s flawless invocations of Liza and Stritch, Toni DiBuono’s uncanny Patti LuPone, and Alessandrini’s particular distaste for Broadway Disneyfication. Among the bonus tracks are some of his very best vignettes, such as Terri White’s glorious “Screamgirls” and the total demolition of Aspects of Love (“Love Changes Everything” becomes “I Sleep With Everyone”). Note how the various musical directors/accompanists throughout the history of Forbidden Broadway express entire orchestrations with one piano. Note also how they exaggerate cast album affectations — languorous tempi for Les Miz, the heavy bass tread of a Rodgers 4/4 tempo–to great effect.  — M.M.

FB-RehabForbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab – Original Off-Broadway Cast, 2009 (DRG) 3 Stars (3 / 5) This wasn’t one of the more thrilling Broadway seasons to spoof, but Alessandrini did a workmanlike job of finding targets, and in some cases, much better than workmanlike. Gina Kreiezmar doesn’t sound a great deal like Ashley Brown, but her “Feed the Burbs,” mocking Mary Poppins, is Alessandrini’s most concise and hilarious skewering of the Disneyfication of Broadway. Christina Bianco’s  vocally challenged Bernadette Peters, in “See Me on a Monday” (one of several bonus tracks), is mean in a very funny way. Some straight-play parodies, of August: Osage County and Daniel Radcliffe in Equus (with James Donegan as Radcliffe), get the job done. Michael West is a delectably overblown James Barbour in a Tale of Two Cities spoof, and a number in which Kreiezmar as Patti LuPone taunts West as Boyd Gaines with “Small Part, Isn’t It?” is deftly done.  — M.M.