After 27 years of writing wickedly funny lyrics and sketches for Forbidden Broadway, the tiny off-Broadway comedy that satirizes Broadway musicals, Gerard Alessandrini decided to hang things up for a while.
"I just thought, let's see what happens to Broadway in a year or two or three, and then, if we feel it warrants a new edition of Forbidden Broadway, we'll do that," he says. "And that's exactly what happened."
The new edition, called Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking!, opens Sept. 6, skewering The Book of Mormon, Once and Newsies, among others. And, as in past shows, Alessandrini says anything having to do with Broadway is fair game.
"This year, the offshoot is Smash, the TV show that is about the mounting of a Broadway musical," Alessandrini explains. "I think everybody in the theater community has been watching it, and they use a lot of Broadway personalities."
In Smash, two actresses, played by onetime American Idol contestant Katherine McPhee and Broadway baby Megan Hilty, compete to play the role of Marilyn Monroe in a new musical. Real Broadway songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who wrote Hairspray, did the songs.
"The tune that we use is 'Let Me Be Your Star,' and it's actually a wonderful song, I mean, the music's terrific and the lyrics are great," enthuses Alessandrini. "I mean, it's as good as any Broadway showstopper from 1960, you know?"
But a healthy appreciation for the original doesn't deter him from his satiric mission.
"What I like to do to the lyrics is turn them inside out — that's the way I look at them," he says. "How can I take the lyric and sort of be true to the lyric and yet turn it inside out, or on its ear?"
So "Let Me Be Your Star" has become "Let Me Be Subpar."
Alessandrini has also worked his critique of the TV series into the lyrics.
"Sometimes I wonder, when I'm watching Smash, I wonder: 'Boy, that doesn't really look like the life I lead living in New York,' " he says. "I don't know. It doesn't look or sound like it. But maybe they'll work all that out."
As scathing as Alessandrini's parodies can be, they're all done with a certain amount of love and reverence.
"Well, I certainly do love theater and I love Broadway musicals, and I really love many of the performers that we make fun of constantly, like Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone — I just adore them. And I try to put that message on the end of every show, so that there's a sentiment that at least says, 'Well, if Broadway isn't great now, maybe if we keep our eye on the prize, it can get better.' "