Before The Book of Mormon arrives in Dallas next season, Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits, Vol 2 will bring us The Book of Moron. At least, that might be the name of the show's newest sketch when it arrives at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Wyly Theatre Dec. 27.
"The show is always changing, which is one of the reason it stays so fun," says James Donegan, cast member of Forbidden Broadway for more than five years. "I mean, not many people can say that in one night they play Rafiki, Javert and Trey Parker."
Forbidden Broadway has been lampooning the mecca of American theater since 1982. This off-Broadway show targets anything and everyone from Julie Taymor to The Music Man to Les Misérables to Julie Andrews. And Forbidden Broadway alumni include Jason Alexander and Michael McGrath.
For Donegan, the road to dark side of the Great White Way was a happy accident. With an undergraduate degree in marketing from Trinity University, the Texas native stumbled back into the theater while living in Atlanta and pursuing a graduate degree in graphic design.
"A friend of mine—from Dallas actually—suggested I connect with a music teacher of his, who happened to be in Atlanta," Donegan says. "I thought I could use a hobby."
When he was cast in his first show in Atlanta, which happened to be an opera, he remembers thinking, "If someone's dumb enough to pay me to be on stage, I better not be too dumb to take it." His eventual foray into professional theater was perhaps rooted in his childhood involvement with theater and music at both his church and school in Seguin, Texas.
While he finished his master's in graphic design, he performed in several professional productions and soon changed his career trajectory. Not long after he moved to New York City in the late '90s to be an actor, he found himself walking into an audition for Forbidden Broadway.
"I'd been a fan of the show since college," Donegan says. "I thought to myself there was no way I'd get the part."
He was right—at least that time.
Several years later he was performing at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, where Gerard Alessandrini the creator of Forbidden Broadway happened to see him. Alessandrini remembered him from his original audition and called him in the next week.
"I thought it was just a general callback," Donegan says. "But when I got there they asked me if I could start Monday."
What started as a temporary summer gig of quick changes and bald caps, evolved into five years of slapstick and vibrato. "I think it would be impossible not to love being part of this show," Donegan says. "You play a role on Broadway and then you end up poking fun at yourself."
Donegan assures me this show is fun for more than just Broadway enthusiasts. In fact, it might be even more fun for someone who hates musicals. "In The Book of Moron sketch, we poke fun at the creators of South Park who may be singlehandedly ruining Broadway. Or making it better," Donegan says. "But you don't need to know the musical or the TV show to think the jokes are funny."
When I point out to him that Forbidden Broadway arrives a year before Book of Mormon, he chuckles and says, "No way! Well, maybe the jokes would be a little bit funnier if you knew what they were about."