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REVIEW: A wickedly funny B2B revue in Qualicum Beach

‘Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits’ a true delight
Rob Atkinson, Jenny Atkinson and Grant Mellemstrand perform in ‘Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits’, a Bard to Broadway production at the Village Theatre in Qualicum Beach. (Don Emerson photo)

By Kathy Harper

Bard to Broadway is back!

With the arrival of the COVID pandemic in March 2020, the organization had to pull the plug on their planned summer season. In good faith, three new shows were eventually selected and cast early in 2021 in the hope that live theatre might again be permitted in July and August of this year.

Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits is a wickedly funny revue - a spoof on musical theatre – actors, dancers, directors, choreographers. Written and conceived by Gerard Alessandrini, it has been running for almost 40 years with Alessandrini rewriting it a dozen times to include parodies of newer shows.

Director Susan Bradshaw has put together a fine cast of five men (Rob Atkinson, Gary Brown, Buwa Edward-Dede, Grant Mellemstrand and son Sam Mellemstrand) and five women (Jenny Atkinson, Marilyn Holt, Jessica Kelly, Amber Lochead and Erin Robertson). Job requirements? Must sing, act, dance and travel.

The cast and crew come from five or six different communities on the Island, so scheduling rehearsals AND adhering to COVID protocols must have been challenging.

Everyone has a chance to shine in this revue.

Some notable moments include Jenny Atkinson as a ‘slightly aging Annie’ in a red wig, bemoaning turning 30 ‘Tomorrow’. Marilyn Holt has a show-stopping number as Ethel Merman and chews up the scenery. Jessica Kelly and Erin Robertson heat up the stage in a catfight “dance” with ruffled petticoats as Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno to the tune of ‘America’. Channeling Idina Menzel, B2B alumni Amber Lochead solidly Defies Subtlety (‘Defying Gravity’) from Wicked.

Gary Brown makes the entrance of the night as a resplendent and ditzy Carol Channing. Buwa Edward-Dede rocks out in the Hairspray number and Sam Mellemstrand is featured in Rant (from Rent); both vamped Enjoy Being a Cat (‘I Enjoy Being a Girl’) in fur pieces. Grant Melplemstrand stunned the house with his note-perfect tenor rendition of It’s too High (i.e. ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis.) And veteran Rob Atkinson as Broadway star Mandy Patinkin, gave us a stellar Somewhat Overindulgent to the tune of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.

READ MORE: Qualicum Beach’s Bard to Broadway theatre group to feature three plays this season

The full ensemble numbers are particularly strong, notably Les Miserables and Chorus Line medleys.

Whenever the full company stepped downstage, towards the audience, the energy picked up and there was electricity in the air. The harmonies were very effective here as well.

Kudos to Alison Dalton, musical director/pianist who provided the non-stop musical accompaniment. The actors are not using mics and there is an almost perfect balance between singers and piano.

Thanks also to Denise Marquette, vocal director, for her efforts in getting the nice harmonies out of the ensemble.

The co-costume design team of Norma Harris and Enid Jacques are also to be congratulated. Against basically a black box setting, their colorful costumes inject a real visual punch to the show.

While this is not a dance-heavy show, per se, Jessica Downs has created effective, smart choreography. The tongue-in-cheek, Glossy Fosse number is sexy and hilarious.

This is a very entertaining show from an excellent cast who will continue to impress with each successive show under their belt.

We are so fortunate to have the talent pool we do, and they are why we have all missed live theatre so much for the past 15 months. Well done.

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