Carol Channing's giant smile was her trademark.
Barbra Streisand is known for her dramatic stage presence and accent.
And Liza Minnelli? "Liza is one long, run-on sentence that doesn't stop,'' joked Amy Dobbert.
Dobbert, 33, plays all three of those actors in Eight O'Clock Theatre's funny spoof of Broadway icons, Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits, at the Largo Cultural Center.
Actor Sadra Bostick portrays Ethel Merman.
"For Ethel Merman, it's all in the arms," said Bostick, who by day is a curriculum specialist for Pinellas County schools. "She kept her arms a certain way — stiff. So, I concentrate on that, and I was in Annie Get Your Gun a few years ago, so I can easily call up her singing in my head.''
Dobbert and Bostick are joined by Jonathan Pouliot and Joey Sarlo in portraying a host of Broadway's most recognizable actors.
The original version of Forbidden Broadway was created by Gerard Alessandrini in 1982 as an after-hours supper club act in Manhattan. In the last three decades, he has added dozens of versions, including parodies of Broadway's newer shows.
The Greatest Hits version is a mix of old and new, with vintage bits for shows like Chicago, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story to go along with sendups of more recent shows like Wicked, Les Misérables and Mamma Mia!
The director of Eight O'Clock's production is James Grenelle, whose directing credits include Nunsense II, The Taffetas, The Drowsy Chaperone and Forever Plaid. Over the years, he has seen Forbidden Broadway in New York four times.
"Seeing it several times has made me fully understand that in order to imitate someone correctly, you have to have a love and respect for them. That way it won't come across meanspirited,'' said Grenelle, 33.
"And I also tell the actors in a parody to take the mannerisms of the person and multiply them by 10,'' he said.
Although it's only a cast of four, plus a piano player (music director Emi Stefanov, whose grand piano is the centerpiece on a dimly lit stage), there are about 30 costume changes. Actors also go through about a dozen wigs — each.
"For me, it's 13 different wigs,'' said Bostick, 43. "The costume changes themselves are well choreographed. Each actor has their own dresser for this show to keep things moving.''
The fast pace seems to add to the humor, Bostick says. "It's typical in theater to see a few funny roles in a show, but rarely is there a show like this where everyone is assigned to make people laugh.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.