Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit — As musical-revue franchises go, they don't come much healthier than Forbidden Broadway, which has enjoyed several iterations over the past 25 years. Featuring comedy knockoffs of popular musicals, this most recent version is a mix of old material (Les Miz lampoons) and newer stuff, like spoofs poking The Lion King, wherein headdress-abused actors bemoan their lot in "Can You Feel the Pain Tonight?" The players throw themselves into one costume and wig change after another, with Greg Violand crooning a clever Robert Goulet parody and Tricia Bestic spoofing hyper Liza Minnelli. Also fine are Brian Marshall (his Cameron Mackintosh peddles show souvenirs such as chocolates shaped like orphans) and Carmen Keels, who nails a brassy Ethel Merman. Keels and Bestic also turn in a great duet as dueling Anitas (Chita Rivera vs. Rita Moreno) in West Side Story. Some jokes are fresh, as when they make fun of all the shows featuring puppets ("If you want a Tony/Flash a cloth cojone"). But a lot of the lyric gibes are repetitive, and some Broadway in-jokes get lost here in the hinterland. But it's fast and fun, and the voices are Broadway-quality. Through December 2 at the Hanna Theatre, 2067 East 14th Street, 216-241-6000. — Christine Howey
We Gotta Bingo — This is an audience-participation play — think Tony and Tina's Wedding, but substitute Bingo Night for Wedding Night. Basically, St. Patrick's church has been demolished by mistake, so two Catholic churches have combined to throw a bingo fund-raiser, and you're invited. Here's the problem: This kind of church affair has none of the emotional horsepower that a wedding does. Moreover, the dialogue and songs range from mediocre to total crap, despite the relentlessly upbeat performers, who manage to elevate the material to sporadically amusing. And before any bingo is even played, plenty of bad jokes must be endured as members of the cast roam the room, chatting up the audience. At our table, the talented actress Liz Conway played Darla Blue, number-caller Bucky Fuller's assistant, who shared her trepidations about pulling balls for the bingo game — rehashing her plaint repeatedly so that the slowest among us could fully appreciate the clever double entendre. On stage, large Patrick Ciamacco is a force to be reckoned with as Bucky. And June Lang as Rosa adds some barbed commentary about the Irish interlopers. Director Ross Young also keeps the energy at a fever pitch, and the room is decorated up the wazoo with kitschy wall hangings and a proscenium-mounted fraulein lugging a tray of frosty beer mugs. But this premise needs some witty writing — at least snappy enough to equal the talent of the performers — before anyone can verifiably shout "Bingo!" Through December 15 at the East 14th Street Theatre, 237 East 14th Street, 216-241-6000. — Howey
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.