“Forbidden Broadway” skewers Broadway classic shows such as “Mary Poppins” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
But you don’t need to have seen a million musicals to appreciate the Tony-winning musical revue.
“There’s so much more to ‘Forbidden Broadway’ than just the fact that we spoof Broadway shows,” said Gina Kreiezmar, one of the stars of the show, playing Friday in Olympia. “It’s almost like a musical version of ‘Saturday Night Live’ for Broadway.”
The show, which began off-Broadway in 1982 and has run in various incarnations most of the years since, can fill you in on who’s who and what’s what while it entertains.
“For ... 100 minutes of your time, this little satire gives you everything you need to be witty, withering and informed about long, expensive musicals that would cost you thousands of dollars to see, not to mention all those precious hours,” Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote in a 2012 review.
And for those living in the way-way-off-Broadway reaches of South Sound, the musical revue offers a glimpse of shows that won’t arrive here for who knows how long as well as old standbys.
The show’s latest incarnation, “Alive and Kicking,” “is the meanest that I can recall,” Brantley wrote.
But the humor doesn’t just come from the jabs. As they traverse the expanse of the Great White Way, the four cast members, all trained singers, do vocal impersonations. Kreiezmar plays both Ethel Merman and Liza Minnelli.
And the costumes are part of the fun, too. Take the send-up of “The Lion King.” “The ears are towels, and there’s this dryer tube that’s the trunk, and you’re using plungers as legs,” Kreiezmar said.
The revue is the brainchild of Gerard Alessandrini, who wrote his own send-ups of Broadway hits and used them to audition for Broadway musicals. Instead of landing a big role, he wound up getting so much notice for his humor that the show became his career.
“It became this thing,” Kreiezmar said. “Rex Reed came to see it and Liz Smith. All of these superstars would come to see it.
“It was the talk of the town. Everyone in New York knows what ‘Forbidden Broadway’ is.”
Kreiezmar first saw the show as a high school student visiting New York with her parents. She loved it but never imagined it would become her career, too: She dreamed of Broadway and found “Forbidden Broadway” instead.
“I moved to New York with my Equity card, and I didn’t have an agent,” she said. “So I wrote Gerard Alessandrini a letter. I said: ‘I’m new in New York. I think this is the show I’m right for. When you have your next set of auditions, please think of me.’”
She began as an understudy in 1992 and has been working with various editions of the show ever since, both in New York and on the road. She’s traveled to Japan, Vietnam and South Africa with the show. (Yes, the humor translates, she said.)
“I get to portray characters that perhaps I would never be able to do on Broadway or be right for,” she said. “I play Beauty in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I play Mary Poppins. I play Annie. I’m a little long in the tooth for Annie.
“Doing a book show is awesome, and I hope that maybe one day I’ll have a chance to do that,” she added, “but I’ve been so content to create these characters for a three-minute number and perfect them.”
Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking
What: The long- running and often- updated musical revue parodies Broadway shows and stars of past and present.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.
Tickets: $25-$49 for adults; $23-$44 for students, seniors and military; $12.50-$24.50 for youths.
For information: 360-753-8586 or washingtoncenter.org.