Don't fear venturing into 'Forbidden Youngstown'



“Forbidden Youngstown” was one of Rust Belt Theater Company’s most popular shows when it premiered last season, so it’s being brought back with some fresh material.

The bawdy musical revue spoofs the community theater scene, much as “Forbidden Broadway” skewers the Great White Way.

Written and directed by Robert Dennick Joki, with choreography by Marisa Zamary, the musical opens Friday.

“I love doing parodies because they make people laugh,” said Joki. “It’s a distraction from whatever it is that gets you down ... crime, unemployment, debt, foreclosure, corrupt politicians, the Ebola virus. I like to give people a chance to forget about all of that for a little while.”

He pointed out that the show doesn’t directly poke fun at anyone.

“It’s more of a broad parody of ridiculous theater personalities and situations,” said Joki. “The local theater people who came to see the show last year really seemed to enjoy it. In fact, we were asked to perform one of our songs, ‘Off Broadway,’ which is about producing shows on a very tight budget, as the opener for last year’s Marquee Awards.”

The show pokes fun at everything from Disney blockbusters to Bob Fosse choreography.

New songs this year include “I’m Gonna Be a Local Star,” “I’m Not Gay, I Just Love Musical Theater” and “Let It Go! [I Don’t Want to Hear That Song Anymore].”

The cast consists of Nicole Zayas, Kage Coven, Lynn Sabeh, Grace Offerdahl, Bernadette Lim, Geri Dewitt, Tommy O’Donnell, Hunter Thomas, David Cirelli, Beth Farrow, Starr McClure, Hannah Hnida, Erica Perna, Eric Lewis, Nick Lyras, Murphy Sharp, Zamary and Joki.

While “Forbidden Youngs-town” might appear to be targeting the theater crowd, it actually casts a wide net in terms of audience inclusiveness.

“Musical theater aficionados will probably laugh hardest,” Joki said, “but we’ve gone out of our way to make sure everyone gets the joke.”

He described some of the musical numbers in the show:

“Stage Mama” is about a terrifying woman who will do anything to get her daughter cast as the title role in “Annie.”

“Performance Degree” is about the challenges of finding work and paying off your student loans if you majored in theater, art history or psychology.

“I’m Gonna Be a Local Star” is about a young woman who, after receiving her first favorable review in the local newspaper, decides to quit her job to pursue a career in community theater.

“Showmance” is about two performers who make a habit of falling in (and out) of love with their fellow actors.

“Fat People Choreography” is about choreographers not knowing what to do with plus-sized performers in big production numbers.

“We Need a Little Jesus” looks in on some performers who come to the realization that doing religious shows during the holidays are a money-maker, whether you are a believer or not.

“I’m Not Gay, I Just Love Musical Theater” is a duet between two actors who have a difficult time being taken seriously in the local dating pool.

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