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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

"Forbidden Broadway," the tiny show that satirizes Broadway musicals, has returned to the New York stage after a three-year hiatus. The new edition opens this Thursday and Jeff Lunden has this preview.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

NATALIE CHARLE ELLIS: (Singing) Popular, I'm glad you're so popular. You've been on more TV shows and you'll model clothes some would even call obscene - oh. You're in all the P.R. shots and the promo spots. You even look attractive green.

JENNY LEE STERN: (Singing) yes, I'm popular...

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: After 27 years of writing wickedly funny lyrics and sketches about Broadway shows, Gerard Alessandrini decided to hang things up for a while.

GERARD ALESSANDRINI: I just thought let's see what happens to Broadway in a year or two or three. And then, if we feel it warrants a new edition of "Forbidden Broadway," we'll do that. And that's exactly what happened.

LUNDEN: The new edition, called "Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking!" skewers "The Book of Mormon," "Once" and Newsies," among others. And as in past shows, Alessandrini says anything having to do with Broadway is fair game.

ALESSANDRINI: So, this year, the offshoot is "Smash," the TV show that is about the mounting of a Broadway musical. And I think everybody in the theater community has been watching it and they use a lot of Broadway personalities.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

ELLIS: (Singing) She is not a girl with a hunger for fame and a face and a name to remember...

LUNDEN: In "Smash," two actresses, played by "American Idol" contestant Katherine McPhee and Broadway baby Megan Hilty, compete to play the role of Marilyn Monroe, in a new musical. Real Broadway songwriters, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who wrote "Hairspray," have written the songs.

ALESSANDRINI: The tune that we use is "Let Me Be Your Star" and it's actually a wonderful song. I mean the music is terrific and the lyrics are great. I mean it's as good as any Broadway showstopper from 1960, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

ELLIS: (Singing) ...when the music starts playing, it's the beat of her heart saying, Let me be your star...

ALESSANDRINI: What I like to do to the lyrics is turn them inside out, that's the way I look at them. How can I take the lyric and sort of be true to the lyric and yet turn it inside out or on its ear.

LUNDEN: So, "Let Me Be Your Star" has become - well, you'll hear it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

ELLIS: (Singing) ...feet in on a team with a big juicy frame and believing in fame, Megan Hilty. Of course, she is me and I star on TV in that she'll smash where I play trash...

ALESSANDRINI: Sometimes I wonder when I'm watching "Smash," I wonder, boy that doesn't really look like the life I lead living in New York. I don't know. It doesn't look or sound like it. But maybe they'll work all that out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

ELLIS: (Singing) I fear that smash is going to crash. One seemed so promising, started to stink. Now the critics don't think we'll go far. (unintelligible) been singing, let me be subpar.

LUNDEN: As scathing as Gerard Alessandrini's parodies can be, they're all done with a certain amount of love and reverence.

ALESSANDRINI: Well I certainly do love theater and I love Broadway musicals. And I really love many of the performers that we make fun of, constantly, like Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone. I just adore them. And I try to put that message on the end of every show, so that there's a sentiment that at least says, well, if Broadway isn't great now, maybe if we keep our eye on the prize, it can get better.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL)

SCOTT RICHARD FOSTER: (Singing) (unintelligible) no cigar.

ELLIS: (Singing) (unintelligible)

(APPLAUSE)

LUNDEN: "Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking!" opens on September 6th. Special thanks to singers Natalie Charle Ellis, Jenny Lee Stern and Scott Richard Foster and pianist David Caldwell.

For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

WERTHEIMER: And you can hear the song "Let Me Be Subpar," in its entirety at our website at npr.org.

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