SPRING HILL — You might think the musical Forbidden Broadway got its name because it's risque and raunchy.
"It's called 'forbidden' because it makes fun of directors, actors, everyone," said Myndee Washington, who is directing the version opening Jan. 16 at Stage West Community Playhouse.
And, as we all know, stage divas (and divos) are famous for "forbidding" any denigration of their talent or performances.
But, like its cousin Saturday Night Live, Forbidden Broadway skewers them all, with parodies and put-downs of Broadway's best — and it's done so with astounding success through 19 versions (it's regularly updated when new shows debut) since 1982.
Critics love it. And even though it's spent its life off-Broadway, it's gotten loads of special recognition, including the Tony Honors for Excellence in Theatre award in 2006 and Time magazine's No. 1 musical of 2012. It's been done more than 9,000 times in 200 cities and on four continents.
Stage West is doing one of the earlier versions of the show, Greatest Hits, Vol 1.
"It goes back as far as Hello, Dolly!, with a Carol Channing spoof, and Fiddler (on the Roof)," both launched in 1964, Washington said.
The newest show in it is 2003's Wicked, where the song Defying Gravity becomes Defying Subtlety.
Don't worry if you haven't seen every Broadway show mentioned.
"The shows (spoofed) are iconic, and these are the iconic scenes in the shows," Washington said, making them easily recognizable.
They include comedy takes on Ethel Merman and Liza Minnelli and shows such as Mamma Mia!, Hairspray and Les Miserables, which recently played at Stage West.
"Everyone who saw Les Mis will find those sequences hilarious," Washington said. "Victoria (Primosch) will do somewhat of a reprisal of her (role as) Fantine," the abused factory worker who gives her daughter Cosette to hero Jean Valjean.
The show has six players instead of the scripted four, "mainly because it's written for a smaller stage, and we have a whole lotta stage here," Washington said. And there is a three-piece combo instead of the traditional single piano, for the same reason.
"They have costume changes for every number," Washington said. "Every actor has at least seven costumes. My (backstage) dressers are going to be working the hardest."
The director recommends the show for ages 14 and older, not because it's bawdy, but "simply because I don't think younger kids will get the humor," she said.
There are a few off-color words, she said, but "it's not inappropriate or anything we would be embarrassed about."
Even though the show parodies Broadway musicals, it doesn't take a Broadway insider to enjoy it.
"We have some top-notch performers. … Our performers are so high quality, it makes (the show) fabulous," she said.
Besides the multi-HAMI award-winning Ms. Primosch (Roxie in Chicago, Lost in Yonkers), the cast also has HAMI winners Keith Meccia (Arsenic and Old Lace), Anthony Cromartie (Mary Sunshine in Chicago) and Mitchell Gonzalez (Roger DeBris in The Producers), as well as Tori Razzano and newcomer Monalisa Patterson.
Washington directed the musical comedy Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks (her all-time favorite show), performed in The Music Man ensemble, is a costume consultant for the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, is a finalist for Broadway.com's Best Costume Design award for her work for The Tempest at Patel, and teaches music at Suncoast Elementary School in Spring Hill.
The show is about two hours long, including intermission.