U-turn on Broadway: Looking Glass revue takes pokes at stars

News-DemocratJanuary 29, 2014 

"Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits" is a caberet-style revue that spoofs New York musicals, actors, singers and dancers -- including drama behind the scenes.

Chita Revera and Rita Moreno meet at one point.

"Chita originated the role of Anita in 'West Side Story' on Broadway," said Glenn Saltamachia, who is directing the production at Looking Glass Playhouse this weekend and next.

"But when they made the movie, Rita was picked for the role. So they have a little catfight on stage over who was the best Anita."

Liza Minneli, Carol Channing, Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand also make appearances.

Liz Murphy plays "Babs," singing a parody of "On a Clear Day" with lyrics that cement her status as a diva calling the shots.

Murphy gets in character with palazzo pants, a sparkling top, fake nails and a wig with a blunt haircut.

"It's terrifying and intimidating," she said. "I have big shoes to fill. (Streisand is) so identifiable -- her mannerisms, her voice. And it's not just singing. There's a monologue."

Murphy also portrays Dot from "Sunday in the Park with George," Daphne from "Rent" and Elphaba from "Wicked" and sings chorus numbers from "Hairspray," "The Sound of Music" and "A Chorus Line."

"We're all running around playing multiple parts and changing costumes," said Murphy, 44, of Belleville, a language-arts teacher. "It's crazy, but fun."

The off-Broadway production "Forbidden Broadway" opened in 1982. Since that time, creator Gerard Alessandrini has followed up with more than a dozen versions to include newer musicals.

"Greatest Hits" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Looking Glass Playhouse.

"Not many people are familiar with it, but it's been running in New York for a while," said Saltamachia, 58, of Swansea, a military contractor and Air Force retiree.

"I saw it about 10 years ago. It's really funny, and I have a tremendous cast, very talented."

Fifteen actors make up the ensemble, including Saltamachia's granddaughter, Anna Campbell, 14, of Belleville, who plays a flying monkey from "Wicked."

The actors, singers and dancers poke fun at Broadway hits ranging from "Chicago" to "Annie, " "Les Miserables" to "Phantom of the Opera," as well as Stephen Sondheim musicals such as "Into the Woods."

"There are no leads, no plot, no story to follow," Saltamachia said. "It's a musical revue."

The person on stage most is Laura Mitchell, who plays all the music on piano.

A bittersweet backstory involves cast member Emma Breckel, 12, of Mascoutah. She got involved in community theater seven years ago, following in the footsteps of her father, Jeff.

At 6, Emma played a "Glenda girl" in a Looking Glass Production of "The Wizard of Oz."

"Emma kept saying, 'I'm really happy I'm a Glenda girl, but I really wanted to be a flying monkey with my dad,'" recalls mom Vicki Breckel, 44.

Emma went on to perform in several plays with Jeff before he moved into lighting and direction. Last fall, he dusted off his monkey suit for a fantasy scene in "Shrek the Musical."

Jeff died of a heart attack days later at 41. In "Forbidden Broadway," Emma will play a flying monkey for the "Wicked" spoof, wearing her dad's suit.

"It feels good because ('The Wizard of Oz') is the first play that I did with him," she said.

How does Emma think her father would have reacted? "He'd say, 'Isn't that a little big for you?'"

Reservations are suggested for "Forbidden Broadway." Looking Glass Playhouse has a new online ticketing service, but patrons without Internet access still can place orders by phone.

At a glance

What: "Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits"

Where: Looking Glass Playhouse, 301 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon

When: 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6-8 and 2 p.m. Feb. 9

Admission: $10 for adults, $9 for senior citizens 60 and older, students and military personnel with identification and $8.50 for LGP members for Thursday and Sunday performances ($12, $11 and $10.50 on Fridays and Saturdays)

Tickets: 618-537-4962 or lookingglassplayhouse.com

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