Keith McGill & Craig Nolan Highley in Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits. Photo: HAC

Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits

Book & Lyrics by: Gerard Alessandrini
Directed by Keith McGill

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

Broadway shows have a reputation for taking themselves too seriously. Luckily, shows like the hilarious Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits, help burst that bubble. One just wishes it was more up-to-date.

The show is a revue-style send-up of some of Broadway’s biggest musicals and icons. Everything from Les Miserables, Annie, Spamalot, Chicago, and Rent gets the parody treatment alongside legendary performers like Carol Channing, Barbara Streisand, and Liza Minnelli. 

For this specific show, Keith McGill, who directed and performed, said there were supposed to be 27 people in the cast that night. However, according to McGill, in a fidgety, nervous, humorous voice and attitude, 23 were sick after an incident at Holiday World involving the log flume ride and contaminated butter. That left only McGill, Jessica Tanselle, Marianne Zickuhr, and Craig Nolan Highley to do the entire show alongside music director Gayle King, who played piano exquisitely throughout the show.

The severe cast reduction and McGill’s speech led to a feeling that Forbidden Broadway was hastily prepared, and it worked. This is one of the few shows that can get away with people slightly out of tune or step. Highley was very funny in his attempts to keep up with the rest of the cast in group numbers, especially the opening title song, often falling a step behind, posing in the wrong direction, or fumbling through pages of the score on the music stand.

Each parody came complete with plenty of wit and outfits that more or less (mostly less)  matched the costumes of the show being parodied. 

Zickuhr, for instance, was laugh-out-loud wonderful as an Annie long past her youth who sarcastically sang a parody of “Tomorrow”, complete with the famous red dress and wig but also with a cigarette in her hand. 

Meanwhile, early in the second act, Tanselle and Zickuhr combined great harmonies and just the right amount of sarcasm in Mamma, Mia.

Despite the hilarity, Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits faces a couple of problems. First, those who haven’t seen, or at least heard of the parodied shows, may miss the jokes.

Second, the references to Clay Aiken and David Letterman and the absence of any recent Broadway productions make this show about 15 years out of date. Where’s the Hamilton parody? How about a Frozen/Lion King/Aladdin medley that targets the overall Disney domination of Broadway? Highview Arts Center can take on that challenge. 

Featuring Craig Nolan Highley, Keith McGill, Jessica Tanselle, & Marianne Zickuhr

Content Warning: Recommended age of 16+ due to adult language and themes.

Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits

May 9, 11, 16, 17 & 18 @ 7:30 pm
May 12 & 19 @ 2:30 pm

Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40228

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for and from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.