A Bawdy Romp Through the “Billary” Days of the ‘90s
By P.K. Greenfield
“Clinton The Musical” recently opened Off-Broadway at The New World Stages just in time for Hillary’s announcement to run for the President of The United States — this musical stirs the pot while striking up the band. It may not be what you’d expect to hear or see in the halls of Capital Hill, but this pastiche is a welcome jolt to musical theater.
Australian brothers, Paul and Michael Hodge, have created an audacious musical about the 42nd President, the First Lady and a gander of the many faces, especially those with two, on Capital Hill. From votes to vetoes, indiscretions to impeachment trials, this night at the theater might not be everyone’s cup of Potomac River tea. For other’s, it’s shockingly uproarious no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.
“Good evening. I am Hillary Rodham Clinton. And I would like to tell you the story of my first Presidency. In my whole life I have only ever loved two men. And they happen to be the same man.” A sky blue, pant-suited Hillary Rodham Clinton (Kerry Butler) opens the show and introduces the two sides of her husband played by two different actors: WJ (Tom Galantich) is the silver-haired, presidential intellect, while Billy (Duke Lafoon) is the sloppy good ol’ boy and playboy who happens to blow a saxophone. From Hillary’s opening remarks, the plot is off and heading back to the ‘90s with Bill and WJ clashing as they spread their ideas, image and indiscretions across the stage and all the way to The White House.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Kenneth Starr (Kevin Zak) and Newt Gingrich (John Treacy Egan) devise a plot to take down the first couple with all of the filth they could find on the dirty campaign trail. This dynamic duo is as hilarious as Abbot and Costello, Stiller and Meara, or today’s Key and Peele and as evil as vintage comic book villains. The Big Gulp slugging Gingrich is perfectly juxtaposed against the menacing and dominatrix dressing, Starr. Kevin Zak as Starr brings the house down with his striptease number.
Enter Linda Tripp (Judy Gold) and Monica Lewinsky (Veronica J. Kuehn). While it helps to have lived through the decadent decade, the show does a fine job fleshing out their roles of the Christmas obsessed administrative assistant and the Intern during this era’s finger pointing, hand wringing and political footsie.
Gold also plays the wall portrait of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who gives advice and sings a duet with Hillary convincing her to stand by her man for the good of the country. Gold’s professional expertise as an award-winning actress and stand-up comedian nails both roles with a towering presence, comedic timing and character nuance. Butler is a veteran Broadway star who consistently shines when on stage — if only this part kept her near the footlights a little longer.
While the musical is all about The Clintons, the show actually belongs to Kuehn as Lewinsky. All actors give solid performance but Kuehn steals the thunderous applause and laughs with “Monica’s Song” — the lyrics are unfit for print except for perhaps in a bathroom stall. She also does a tap dance routine that’s almost as patriotic as a John Phillip Sousa March. Brava!
Kudos to supporting cast members: Kara Guy, Dale Helsey, Rob Richardson and Gretchen Wylder.
The book is smart, music and lyrics are melodic and witty, and while I don’t like to compare one work to another, this musical has a few winks and nods to “Spamalot”, “Book of Mormon”, and Disney World’s, “Hall of Presidents”.
This show will have most theatergoers laughing, humming the score and possibly gasping from the raw and real trip down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Hodge brothers have a crafted a work that goes beyond lampoon and brings an underlying compassion to most of the characters.
The staging is amusingly directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtge. Beowulf Boritt designed the cleaver scenery with revolving-door oval office. True to form costumes and hair are created by David C. Woolard and Tom Watson respectively.
I doubt the Clintons or other real-life subjects will be as amused as those cueing up for tickets on 50th Street.wwwClinton The Musical
New World Stage
340 West 50th Street
New York, NY
Call Telecharge: 212-239-6200