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‘Forbidden’ Very Fruitful in Southland

One “Forbidden Broadway” opened Friday at Hermosa Beach Playhouse. Another one opens Feb. 18 at the Annenberg in Palm Springs. Yet another opens March 5 at the Tiffany on the Sunset Strip.

Fans of the franchise, which is famous for its revues parodying musical theater, may wonder if they should see all of the above. Or if they have to choose, which one?

“Forbidden Broadway” co-producer John Freedson and creator-director Gerard Alessandrini outlined the differences among the productions last week.

The version that’s in the 500-seat Hermosa Beach venue through next weekend has been touring the country under the title “Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act!,” which is also the title of the edition that’s playing at the “Forbidden Broadway” headquarters in New York. The whole title was used in advance publicity for the Hermosa Beach run, but the “Cleans Up Its Act!” part was removed from the program, because the sketch to which those words refer is no longer part of the touring version. It was a takeoff on New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s efforts to “clean up” the Broadway theater district, and it was deemed of limited interest to audiences far from 42nd Street.

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The Hermosa show has a few sketches that are new to L.A., including parodies of “The Lion King” and “Swan Lake,” but nothing that was specifically written for L.A. The cast is made up of Susanne Blakeslee, Gina Kreiezmar, Brian Patrick Miller and Bill Selby. Although Alessandrini is credited as director, Freedson is the one who reproduced Alessandrini’s staging for the tour; however, as of last Tuesday, the day of the first preview, both men were in New York, so neither one directed it specifically for Hermosa. Alessandrini said he would try to catch a performance next weekend.

He’ll be in town getting ready for the next round of “Forbidden Broadway.” On Feb. 18-19, a “Forbidden Broadway” will play Palm Springs--a tryout for the version that will preview the following week and open on March 5 at the 99-seat Tiffany.

The Tiffany show will probably be called “Forbidden Broadway Y2KLA.” Although initial press releases referred to the Tiffany run as “Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back!,” the last two words were dropped because “Strikes Back!” was in the title of the New York edition two years ago, and Freedson and Alessandrini want to dispel the idea that this is just a rehash of that show.

In fact, the Tiffany version will include at least half a dozen sketches that are new or freshly tailored for L.A. audiences. That includes a “Ragtime” parody that refers to the show’s long run here and a “Putting It Together” number in which Blakeslee plays Carol Burnett.

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Best of all, Alessandrini said, he’ll get to parody “Martin Guerre” at the Tiffany, because it’s playing in L.A. this month. The move of “Guerre” to Broadway after its L.A. run was recently derailed, so Alessandrini won’t have that opportunity any time soon in New York. He also plans to insert some pre-Oscar movie parodies into the Tiffany show, a few of the troupe’s old favorites, and some of the material also seen at Hermosa.

Besides Blakeslee, the Tiffany cast will include Jason Graae, Christine Pedi and Jerry McIntyre. All of the Tiffany cast members except Pedi live in L.A.

DISNEY NAME GAME: Walt Disney Studios last week announced a restructuring of its theatrical production wing, now known as Buena Vista Theatrical Group Ltd.

Disney Theatricals will be the Buena Vista division that supervises the current big hits--"Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and the company’s Berlin production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” “The Disney brand is great for all audiences and particularly good at introducing theater to young audiences,” said Buena Vista co-president Thomas Schumacher. “Prior to Disney, no one was targeting young audiences on Broadway.”

The newly formed Hyperion Theatricals “is targeted at the more traditional Broadway audience,” he added. Its projects include “Aida,” opening on Broadway on March 23, and the basketball-themed musical “Hoopz.” Hyperion, which shares a moniker with a Disney publishing label, is named after the street in Silver Lake that was Disney’s first local address.


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