The Hit Musical Revue (1982 Revue Compilation) 
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"So what did you actually do on Forbidden Broadway, they ask me... Well, for starters, I wrote the following liner notes for the LP:" 

Fall, 1981: Broadway unsuspectingly enjoys a renewed prosperity, as accepting theatregoers indulge such oddities as the operatic expertise of Linda Ronstadt and the irony of a non-musical about Mozart.  Enter Gerard Alessandrini, veteran leading man of stock and repertory theatre, who turns his childhood genius for song parody against the invincibly inaccessible Broadway, a fortress forbidden to Gerard and the vast majority of his fellow performers.  Enter Nora Mae Lyng, a consummate musical comedy leading lady, impatiently awaiting the opportunity to show the current Broadway crop a thing or two about style, magnetism and sheer brilliance.


Together, Gerard and Nora vented their frustrations with his song parodies, entertaining their friends at parties and in local piano bars.  In one such establishment, Palsson's Upstairs Supper Club, Gerard and Nora offered a more comprehensive evening of Broadway parody.  Inspired by the enthusiastic reception, Gerard expanded the repertoire to encompass the entire Broadway scene, accommodating the talents of three other similarly frustrated friends.

Enter Chloe Webb, an entirely original comedienne eager to pit her warm, insightful zaniness against the ancient Broadway institutions perennially touting their wares.

Enter Bill Carmichael, the classic, rich-voiced, handsome tenor, serenely protesting the trendy invasion of Broadway by rock singers and television blonds.
My début in Forbidden Broadway, December 1981,
singing "Too Many Sondheims," to the tune of
Sondheim's "Too Many Mornings."
Alessandrini was offering it both as a tribute to
 Sondheim and a slap at his too-numerous imitators.
In the second edition, Forbidden Broadway 1984,
my new number was "I'm Sick Of Playing Their Songs,"
depicting some actors' poor treatment of
audition accompanists; in the 1985 edition,
I impersonated Sondheim, singing "Thank you, Frank Rich"
to the tune of "Send In The Clowns."

Enter Fred Barton, pianistic whiz-kid, whose frustrations as a would-be Broadway conductor and orchestrator could transform him into an explosive one-man orchestra.

Forbidden Broadway began regular performances in December, 1981 for the usual cabaret audience:  friends and a few random adventurers.  The friends consisted largely of fellow out-of-work performers, for whom the show served as a hilarious incarnation of their Broadway ambitions and frustrations.  Word-of-mouth spread quickly to the current Broadway gypsies, who flocked to the show in secret to laugh at their own shows sent up, deflated, and skewered.  Within days, the entire Broadway community buzzed, scandalized and fascinated by the effrontery and daring of this tiny, budgetless group of unknowns who presumed to challenge Broadway's multi-million dollar illusion of excellence.
Fred Barton and Gerard Alessandrini:
whipping up more witches brew.
(People Magazine, 1982)

In a wretched January snowstorm, Rex Reed trudged over to Palsson's to observe the phenomenon. His rave review was the final touch. Forbidden Broadway became the toast of the town, a miraculous success unprecedented in show business history and unlikely to be repeated.  The sudden onslought of the enthusiastic public filled the tiny supper club months in advance for years to come.  Celebrities from all fields clamored to see it, particularly the very stars, writers, directors, and producers impersonated in the show.  Critics across the country hailed it not only for satirical accuracy and skillful execution, but for single-handedly reviving the long-dormant musical revue format.
Wendee Winters, Nora Mae Lyng, Gerard Alessandrini,
and Bill Carmichael in the original 
Forbidden Broadway as
photographed by 
People Magazine, 1982.
Chloe Webb replaced Wendee Winters in April, 1982
Forbidden Broadway learns to regenerate itself. Forbidden Broadway 1985, left to right:
Herndon Lackey, Jan Neuberger, Davis Gaines, and the reunion of Nora Mae Lyng and Fred Barton
FORBIDDEN BROADWAY walked into my apartment one winter night in 1981, in the form of Nora Mae Lyng, parodist Gerard Alessandrini, and his longtime pianist/aide-de-camp Pete Blue; and a unique chemical reaction between us all turned a scrapbook full of lyrics and leadsheets into an international phenomenon.

Chloe Webb as Mary Martin,
Nora Mae Lyng as Ethel Merman
Nora Mae Lyng was the show's not-so-secret weapon.  She had a precise technique and philosophy of performing musical theatre parody, one that gradually prevailed throughout the evening and one that I tried to capture equally precisely in the musical settings.  Since you won't hear it anywhere else, I guess I'll have to tell you: we gave the show its authority – the authenticity of the real Broadway. Nora Mae Lyng would draw herself up, completely still, with all the hauteur and inherent grandeur of the star in question, and by the time she so much as raised a mutely furious eyebrow, the place went wild.  She never played the parody – she played the original to the teeth, with Gerard's lyrics providing the audience with a magical X-ray ability to hear what the diva was actually thinking, behind the mask of fabulosity.  A foot and a half away, for something like 700 performances, I tried to drag out of the piano the authentic Broadway arrangements, with all the grand swells and hugeness of the original orchestrations.  We were conspirators, creating the illusion of the real thing, which had the effect of making each twist in the parody lyric even more wrenchingly funny that it already was.  It was like building a bogus Louvre every night – and letting the audience find the mustache drawn on the Mona Lisa.
And Ethel Merman.
(February, 1982)

The other secret weapon of the show was its theme, demonstrated when Gerard and Nora appeared fifteen minutes before the show to serve the tables, erupting into a public quarrel (with audience members routinely rising in ire to mediate).  They looked at the empty stage, and ruefully sang a song in which they swore off ever becoming Broadway stars. The entire show was really the ultimate form of parody: self-parody, and an eloquent protest at being forbidden Broadway – the parodies all came from the actor/waiter's professional frustration and passion.  It was this quality that most intrigued one of our first celebrity guests, Harold Prince, who came initially out of annoyance with the fledgling revue's appropriation of his latest disaster's logo (Merrily We Roll Along; see top of this page).  He left entranced with the show and the heart it wore on its blood-soaked sleeve.

Just another night at Forbidden Broadway, March 1982:  George Burns, Carol Channing, Nora Mae Lyng, Bill Carmichael, Wendee Winters, Fred Barton, Gerard Alessandrini, Mary Martin. Burns left a cigar butt on his table, which we framed on the dressing-room wall; and as Martin left, Wendee Winters called after her:  "Come back for Spring Cleaning!"
Gerard Alessandrini, Ann Miller (appearing in Sugar Babies at the time),
Fred Barton, Nora Mae Lyng, Wendee Winters, Bill Carmichael, March 1982
Nora Mae Lyng, Anne Jackson, Fred Barton, Eli Wallach
Gerard Alessandrini, Chloe Webb,
Bill Carmichael, 1983.  Carol Channing
was not parodied in the original show;
She called and asked for it – and got it.