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TWO VIEWS OF "CLINTON - THE MUSICAL"
Clinton - The Musical
Directed by Dan Knechtges
New World Stages
340 West 50 Street
Opened April 9, 2015
Tickets: $75-$95 telecharge.com
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons April 20, 2015
Tom Galantich, Kerry Butle and Duke Lafoon. Photo By Russ Rowland.
If you like your comedy broad and you're a big fan of "Saturday Night Live," you'll most probably love "Clinton - The Musical." In fact, the actual story is so outlandish book writers Paul and Michael Hodge have only needed to tweaked it.
All you really need to know are the essentials of the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. Bill Clinton is a libidinous, though popular president who has an ambitious wife, Hillary. He gets involved with a young intern, Monica Lewinsky, and comes close to losing his office.
Directed by Dan Knechtges, the musical is energetic, sometimes funny and frequently outrageous. Clinton is played by two actors. Tom Galantich is W.J. Clinton, the president's more responsible, sedate self. Duke Lafoon is Billy Clinton, his irascible, irrepressible and immoral alter ego. Kerry Butler is the long-suffering Hillary, who tries to reconcile the two. Veronica J. Kuehn is the love-struck Monica
Kevin Zak, however, often steals the show as the sexually repressed, somewhat deviant Ken Starr, who conducts his investigations for the secret pleasure it gives him. Starr's intrigues with the constantly munching, pudgy Newt Gingrich (John Treacy Egan) are some of the funniest in the show. And the always hilarious Judy Gold makes a much-appreciated, too brief appearance as Hillary’s spiritual guide, Eleanor Roosevelt, first as a a talking painting, then in real life.
Lyricist and composer Paul Hodge has given "Clinton - The Musical" a score with many clever, upbeat songs. They have titles like "That Woman Miss Lewinsky" and "Sexual Relations." The dance numbers are budget Broadway.
With its two acts, "Clinton - The Musical" is a bit too long for broad farce, which always risks becoming repetitive and stale. But unlike the Clintons, who never seem to know when to bow out, this show knows when enough is enough.
Cast of Clinton the Musical with Duke Lafoon (center with glasses) as Billy, Tom Galantich as WJ and Kerry Butler as Hillary. Photo By Russ Rowland.
“Clinton: The Musical”
Book by Paul Hodge & Michael Hodge; music and lyrics by Paul Hodge, directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges.
New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street
(212) 239-6200 http://clintonthemusical.com/
Opened April 9, 2015, closes June 21, 2015.
Reviewed by Lucy Komisar April 10, 2015.
Duke Lafoon as Billy Clinton and Tom Galantich as W.J. Clinton. Photo by Russ Rowland.
Political satire is often the best political commentary. Take the superb sketch musical comedy by Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge, which skewers Democrats and Republicans with equally well-aimed barbs.
The clever device is that two actors play Bill Clinton, the older, wiser William (Tom Galantich) and the young roué, Billy (a very good Duke LaFoon) to show us the two sides of his personality. There's only one Hillary, but Kerry Butler has enough talent for two.
In the Oval Office, the Wm/Bills sing, "We'll be two for one/ I will get things done/I will have some fun."
The dramas of the Clinton administration are portrayed with fast, smart direction by Dan Knechtges. A combination of vaudeville and cabaret.
John Treacy Egan as Newt Gingrich & Kevin Zak as Kenneth Starr. Photo by Russ Rowland.
We see Newt Gingrich (a very good John Tracey Egan) in a Capitol subbasement scheming with Ken Starr (the excellent Kevin Zak). The wall has a dart board with a photo of FDR. They are plotting to destroy Clinton, because he is trying to promote health care.
The media attack on Bill Clinton, Gingritch watches from the sides. Photo by Russ Rowland.
The Republicans are promoting the fake White Water investment scandal where the Clintons lost money. Turning a loss into a scandal was a stretch
The Media: "Nothing will arise, but we will bring that nothing to you live. There won't be time to cover anything else like health care."
Clinton in a major faux pas names Starr as special prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky affair investigation. "When you wish for Kenneth Starr…." Zak makes him a terrific witchy star/starr.
He pulls off his clothes to reveal sheer black briefs and leather straps with spikes.
Judy Gold as Linda Tripp, Veronica J. Kuehn as Monica Lewinsky. Photo by Russ Rowland.
His new friend is a heavy New York-accented Linda Tripp (a comic Judy Gold). Moving the entrapment forward, she tells Monica (the very good Veronica J. Kuehn) to write everything down and don't take that dress to the dry cleaners. Starr promises to make Monica a star.
Just to point out that there may be a double standard (or no standard) operating here, Gingrich, who is married to a woman suffering from cancer, tells his new girlfriend, Calista Bisik, "Don't get sick or I'll divorce you." Meanwhile, she sings with illicit joy, "I'm fucking the fucking Speaker."
Judy Gold as Eleanor Roosevelt. Photo by Russ Rowland.
The set features a backdrop with paintings of past presidents with their girlfriends inserted in hearts. Eleanor Roosevelt (a very funny Gold) comes out of a painting and advises Hillary to stay with Bill. Speaking as another two-timed woman, she used her position to work for good. Hillary? Who knows.
The Republican leaders are shown as life-size cardboard cutouts: Delay, Dole, Gramm, Lott, Boehner, Hutchinson. What a perfect graphic metaphor. You’ve probably forgotten half of them. They sing, "We'll do what we can do the best: nothing."
The Company with Kerry Butler as Hillary in blue. Photo by Russ Rowland.
Paul Hodge's music often has a good jazzy or country sound. So many superlatives about the cast? With excellent voices and fine comic skills, they deserve it.
Visit Lucy Komisar's website http://thekomisarscoop.com/
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