Actor Craig Laurie has performed in some of the most recognizable productions on Broadway such as Jersey Boys, Chicago and Miss Saigon.
Only in the production of Forbidden Broadway, however, is he asked to take on Broadway’s most famous personas in one night.
Starring as Simba from Lion King, Sky Masterson from Guys and Dolls and a host of other characters, Laurie and three other actors will parody famous Broadway stage productions, accompanied by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and guest conductor Catherine Stornetta. Laurie will play nearly 10 different roles throughout the performance.
It’s the closest thing you can do to stand-up comedy, and it’s a blast, Laurie says.
Laurie has been with the stage company for eight years as a part of the Forbidden Broadway touring cast. He first heard of the show as a high school sophomore in Manhattan. His friend played him songs from the Les Misérables parody that the cast still performs today. Laurie thought the songs were brilliant.
It’s really smart and really clever, Laurie says. I still get a kick out of doing it.
The New York-based Forbidden Broadway began in 1982, recruiting actors to sing parodies of the most talked-about shows. Poking fun of Broadway hits, old and new, the show has expanded into 18 editions and a 30-year run in New York.
We’re not spoofing anyone with mean intentions, Laurie says. You’re saying these things with a loving wink.
Laurie says since his troupe travels outside of the New York theater scene, they usually perform parodies that are more recognizable, which makes each performance unique from the next stop. Laurie says while seasoned theatergoers may find the humor in the small details of the show, the production is aimed at a more general audience.
Sometimes with the show you don’t know how theater-savvy your audience will be, but everybody will find the show enjoyable and fun, Laurie says.
A part of the Philharmonic Pops series, the production will be accompanied by a full orchestra instead of their usual pianist. Laurie says that performing with a full orchestra is a different experience.
A pianist knows your comedic timing, but when someone is conducting a big orchestra, you kind of have to go along, Laurie says. Although it’s very exciting, it’s very different.
The key to the show is the actor’s ability to portray the original character in order to make the parody feel genuine. John Freedson, producer for the touring company, says that he looks for an actor who understands musical theater.
The more they live inside the community, the more they have their own opinions, Freedson says. We’re not looking for an impressionist but someone who understands what is particularly compelling about these performers.
Laurie says that even though the cast and producers will often help a new actor with impressions and research, most of the actors realize that they already have a keen imitative eye.
Laurie says it definitely takes a specific kind of person to join the cast, but the only thing that is forbidden is not having a sense of humor.