After a set of hectic dress (and undress) rehearsals, Theatre Lawrence, is set to premiere its 2011-2012 season with a variety show of sorts. “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” a musical revue by Gerard Allesandrini, will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Theatre Lawrence, 1501 N.H.
With over 60 costumes and just four actors, this production promises to run the visual gamut of Broadway’s famous history on stage, from “Annie” to “Fiddler on the Roof” to “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” all the while providing a comedic take on the world-famous New York City theatrical scene.
Designing so many costumes and then figuring out how to get actors in and out of clothes, on and off stage, however, can be difficult to nearly impossible, says co-designer for the show Elle Patton.
“Backstage is a maelstrom because every actor has their own dresser,” Patton says. “We will do a curtain call with those dressers because they’re every bit as big a part of the show as the actors.”
Patton says the show is, because of both the comedic and costuming aspects, a unique challenge. In both cases, she says it’s simply a question of how far the producers want to stray from the original Broadway shows and still have “Forbidden Broadway” work on stage.
“It is a very difficult show to get just right, because it is a spoof, and the question is: ‘how far to go with the spoof?’ On the one hand, you want to be respectful of these wonderful musicals that people adore. On the other hand, it is really taking some riffs on them.”
Co-Designer Jill Stueve says another interesting aspect in regards to the show, and particularly in regards to the costumes, is the speed of the production.
“It’s several different shows, and within those, multiple songs,” Stueve says. “Over 60 costumes and wigs. Some people change twice in shows. There’s a lot of under dressing and quick ins and outs, so dealing with this, these are not your normal costumes. There’s a lot of Velcro and elastic. Making things stay on is always a trick, but it’s definitely fun.”
Stueve says another behind-the-scenes challenge to the revue is the logistics of putting together a show with this many different costumes, for men and women, on time and on budget. She listed finding pink tights for men over six feet in height to be a particularly daunting task.
“Coming up with low-cost ways to get the look across and having it be fantastic at the same time (is difficult). How can you take $10 and turn it into $100? I felt very much like I was on Project Runway. If you think about it, you’re designing a show that’s kind of like a fashion show.”
Director Terrance McKerrs says this show is unique thanks to pell-mell pacing, well-designed costumes and the quality of acting and singing by the cast.
“The fun thing about the show is that there’s four actors doing so many roles in so many shows in, like, an hour and a half,” he says. “They’re literally following themselves on stage after a costume change. They’re overdressed and underdressed and constantly moving on and off the stage.”
McKerrs says the show, though Broadway-oriented, is not specifically designed for incredibly knowledgeable Broadway connoisseurs. He says the production is enjoyable for people of all ages.
“You don’t have to have seen every show. You’ll get it. I don’t want to give away what all the shows are, that’s the surprise of it. I think it’s a good evening of entertainment that you can just sit back and enjoy. If you don’t want to spend a whole evening thinking of some incredible drama and just want to have a good time with pretty much any age group, it appeals to all the senses. If laughter is good for the soul, this show is good for a soul.”