Satire is sharp in 'Forbidden Youngstown'



Lynn Sabeh is going to be a local star.

At least that’s what her character thinks in Rust Belt Theater Company’s latest production of “Forbidden Youngstown.”

The satirical musical, which opened Friday night to a packed house, had the audience roaring and cheering throughout the performance.

“Forbidden Youngstown” is comprised of musical numbers from popular shows, with lyrics rewritten by director Robert Dennick Joki to poke fun at fun at the ins, outs and egos of community theater.

The show opens with Kage Coven and cast singing “Welcome to Forbidden Youngstown,” a riff on “Willkommen” from Cabaret. Coven and company performed with beautiful voices and perfect comic timing. After the rousing opening number, the laughs kept rolling in.

It may be easy to simply make jokes and poke fun, but Joki and his cast do so with an amazing amount of talent and polish. The cast sings with powerful, professional-sounding voices and produces stunning harmonies.

Sabeh has a beautiful, operatic voice that impressed in “I’m Gonna Be a Local Star.” Her duet with Joki, “Showmance,” in which they sing of their romantic relationship that lasts only during the rehearsals and performance of a play, was hilarious and perfectly sung.

Beth Farrow’s singing was showcased in “I’m the Stage Manager” while Eric Lewis shined as he insisted, “I’m Not Gay, I just Like Musical Theater.” Bernadette Lim sang sweetly as she lamented being “Asian Like Me.”

Younger cast members Hunter Thomas and Murphy Charles held their own in “There is an (expletive) in Every Crowd.” Of course there was a parody of “Let it Go” from the movie “Frozen,” sung by Grace Offerdahl, about how tired she is of the original song.

Geri DeWitt and Tom O’Donnell were perfect in their duet about aging thespians, “60 Going on 70.”

Marisa Zamary and Nicole Zayas both have beautiful, powerful voices that impressed in songs such as “Fat People Choreography” and “Underpants.”

Farrow, Lim, Zayas, David Cirelli and Starr McClure humorously bemoaned their choices of undergraduate education in “Performance Degree.” Relative newcomers Hannah Hnida, Erica Perna and Nick Lyras added depth and personality to songs like “I’ll Get a Real Job Tomorrow” and “See my Breasts.”

Zamary’s clever choreography matched each song and reflected the original interpretation. Under Joki’s direction, all the production elements came together to create a musical of near-professional quality.

The performance ended with an ensemble piece led by Joki, my personal favorite, “You Can’t Say F---.” The song pays homage to the original, from “Spring Awakening,” while poking fun at the scandal of swearing in community theater. As in the rest of the show, the cast’s energy was palpable as they sang in amazing harmonies and produced a professional-caliber performance.

As you can probably tell from the titles of the songs, “Forbidden Youngstown” is full of adult themes and language and is intended for adult audiences who are sure to appreciate the wit and talent of the Rust Belt Theater Company.

“Forbidden Youngstown” continues Friday and Saturday as well as July 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. at Rust Belt Theater Company, located in Calvin Center at 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown. For reservations, call or text 330-507-2358.

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