Laughing at themselves

Robert Dennick Joki said the songs in ”Forbidden Youngstown” aren’t about specific local people. Really.

”What’s really funny, when we announced we were doing this show, I started getting messages asking if they’re about specific people,” he said. ”They aren’t at all. They’re about stereotypical types, the personalities you’ll see in theater anywhere. There’s a song about a stage mother, the former drug addict who uses theater as his anti-drug. Really, there is no specific person this is targeted at.”

Audiences can judge for themselves when Rust Belt Theater Company’s production of ”Forbidden Youngstown” opens Friday for a three-weekend run.

The show is inspired by the popular New York revue ”Forbidden Broadway,” and the Mahoning Valley version will parody songs from shows that have been performed locally in the last five years.

”I tried to stay faithful to the rules of parody, which are they have to critique the original work in some way,” said Joki, who wrote and directed the production. ”In addition to being funny and being about Youngstown, they have to parody the original musical, whatever it is.”

For example the song ”Un-der-pants,” a spoof of the musical ”Chicago,” is about performing in front of an audience in underwear and trying to do Bob Fosse-style choreography.

Other songs include ”I’ll Get a Real Job Tomorrow,” “See My Breasts,” “We Need a Little Jesus,” “Off Off Off Broadway,” “You Are 60 Going on 70,” “Asian Like Me,” “I Miss the Morphine,” “One Play More,” “Fat People Choreography,” “I’m The Stage Manager … You’re Screwed” and “Gay Chorus Guys.”

The cast features Marisa Zamary, Nicole Zayas, Kage Coven, Lynn Sabeh, Grace Offerdahl, Bernadette Lim, Geri Dewitt, Tom Smith, Taylor Jordyn, Hunter Thomas, Kelsie Moon, David Cirelli, Beth Farrow, Rachel Clifford, Tyler Thorne, Donnette Bishop, Kim Nevel, Starr McClure, Celena Coven and Joki.

Joki said writing the show was similar to the original ”How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas,” which was mostly parody songs until it evolved into an original production. And like ”Drag Queen,” ”Forbidden Youngstown” could become a perennial at the theater.

”I think this is something, if there is interest, we could do in the summer every year,” he said. ”What I was hoping for (when starting Rust Belt) was a show per season that we could update every year, with ‘Drag Queen’ at Christmas, ‘Dating Sucks’ in the spring, this and ‘Living Dead (the Musical)’ in the fall. Then we can put the new work in between to test it out and see where it goes.”