KPBS AIRDATE: February 8, 1995
(SONG CLIP: “Films are like a box of chocolate…”
“Forbidden Hollywood” is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: some pieces have a kinda nutty flavor; some are just plain gooey; and some are only half-baked.
Okay, maybe it isn’t fair to compare a newcomer with a veteran. After all, creator-writer-director Gerard Alessandrini had a 12-year run to perfect “Forbidden Broadway,” and San Diego audiences got to see the best of the hilarious best during an extended run last fall. So you have to look at the world premiere of “Forbidden Hollywood” as a first draft. It’s got a lot going for it, but it’s got a long way to go.
What it’s got going for it most of all is Alessandrini, who, when he’s on target, is smack damn, dead-on deliciously sarcastic and satirical. He seems to know Broadway better though, and that’s no surprise, since he’s spent more time on that coast. Hollywood is a continent and a universe away.
A major problem here is the reliance on oldies, whether they’re goodies or not. That was a problem at times in “Forbidden Broadway,” too. After all, what proportion of a current audience remembers Mary Martin and Ethel Merman onstage? Same here. How many can tell if they’re doing a good or bad imitation of Marlene Dietrich, Ann Miller or Deborah Kerr? Or even Doris Day (though the eternal virgin does get a kinda funny number).
Spoofs of Hollywood have been done to death, so you’d better come up with something better than Judy, Toto and the von Trapps. And why do Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand have to appear twice each (even though Susanne Blakeslee is spectacular as both of them, as well as Dietrich and Doris Day).
There are the current numbers, like the parodies of “The Piano,” “Interview with the Vampire” (a pretty puerile piece), and “Pulp Fiction,” a commentary on gratuitous violence, which, along with the ‘outing’ song, “Who’s Gay in Hollywood,” made just about the only substantive statements in the show. (SONG CLIP: “Who’s Gay in Hollywood?”)
There’s very little bark or bite in most of these numbers, and much less of the incredible cleverness Alessandrini has become known for. And, as in the earlier show, the women are more talented and versatile than the men. Both Blakeslee and Christine Pedi wowed local audiences last year. They can come back this way any time.
But though the singing is good, and the dancing is fair, the humor isn’t that sharp and most of the impressions just aren’t that terrific; I mean, even easy marks like Nicholson and Schwartzenegger and Brando, not to mention Liz Taylor and Bette Midler and… Forrest Gump. Marilyn Pasekoff redeems herself for all time in her scathing portrait of the ever-tremorous Katherine Hepburn, and the ever-adolescent Ann-Margret.
But overall, I was very disappointed. Not in the costumes, mind you. They are spectacular and split-second speedy in the transitions. But all evening long, I kept thinking about Saturday Night Live, where they have all those terrific skit ideas that go nowhere, beating the same joke-line into a pulp and then sort of trailing off without an ending. I thought of that, and ‘Not Ready for Prime Time’ flashed in front of my face. Also ‘Not Ready to Open in L.A. in Time for the Oscars.’
(SONG CLIP: “It’s De-Oscars”)
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1995 Patté Productions Inc.