It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you sit on, Clinton The Musical is (almost) completely bipartisan, very witty and at times shocking and uproarious — it’s a pastiche packed with presidential history, political escapades, a cardboard congress and of course, Hillary.
While it helps to have lived through the ‘90s and Capital Hill’s scandals regarding this powerhouse couple’s trials, tricks and tribulations, it only takes a lover of musicals with a sense of humor to appreciate this production.
Dick Morris once quipped that there are two different Bill Clintons. Based on that expression two different Bills take the stage, one is presidential and the other is the saxophone playing party boy. The clinch is only Hillary can see the two of them.
The fanfare of song and dance ensues from scandals to votes and vetoes with Al Gore and members of congress played by cardboard cutouts, literally. Naturally Monika Lewinsky and Linda Tripp make cameo appearances throughout the plot.
Enter prosecutor Kenneth Starr and Newt Gingrich who devise a plan against the first couple with all of the dirt they could dig up, but also revealing their own stains. With visions from Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary is convinced to stand by her man for the good of the country and her future aspirations.
Writers and brothers, Paul and Michael Hodge have penned a salacious and hyperbolic tale that takes us back to the days of scrunchies, spandex and America’s favorite pastime — gossip journalism. Their book is solid in storytelling, music and lyrics are borderline genius 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.
Kerry Butler is a Tony Award nominee and veteran of Broadway. She ate up the scenery in Hairspray and Xanadu. In the role of Hillary Rodham Clinton, she shines once again wearing a buttoned-up blue pantsuit and capturing every nuance of the first lady along with that laugh. Her solo, “Both Ways” shocked the room and her duet with Eleanor Roosevelt, “Brew It for Your Country”, is appropriately insightful and titillating. While Butler’s performance is powerful, she is not on stage nearly as often as the surrounding characters.
Tom Galantich plays WJ Clinton with a tailored and regal smoothness. He is the perfect juxtaposition to the french fry eating Billy. His rendition of the song, “The Me I See” is pitch perfect and spot on. His performance embraces the charisma of WJ Clinton during his halcyon days.
Sloppy, randy and believable, Duke Lafoon portrays the other side of Bill. He spreads his mess across the stage and all the way to the Oval Office. He’s fun to watch from the scene with sunglasses and blowing a saxophone to his lascivious encounters with the press, staff and interns.
John Treacy Egan (Newt Gingrich) and Kevin Zak (Kenneth Starr) are as villainess as The Riddler and The Joker on “Batman”. This dynamic duo compliment each other in the most diabolical ways with their antics. Larger than life and amazing with timing, the two actors enhance the plot with humor and authentic performances. Spoiler: Zak’s striptease as the dark and brooding Starr is worth the ticket price alone.
Emmy Award winner Judy Gold is primarily known for her stand-up comedy. She perfects her craft as the portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt and the manipulative, whistle blower, Linda Tripp. Even her sweater made me laugh.
Veronica J. Kuehn plays Monica Lewinsky. She sings with the tone and spirit of a meadowlark but the lyrics are as foul as fowl. She also brings the house down with her solo… I’ll leave it at that to avoid another spoiler. Kuehn is amazing to watch and her tap dance number is sidesplitting.
Kudos to other cast members: Kara Guy, Dale Helsey, Rob Richardson and Gretchen Wylder.
I stayed in the lobby after the performance to witness other people’s reactions. I wasn’t alone in my opinions and this review. As audience members exited the theater, I heard them repeating lines and mentioning scenes. Gasping at times.
The bottom line, this is not everyone’s idea of an enjoyable night at the theater. The language can be harsh and the truth of the historic topic might offend some theatergoers. If you follow politics and enjoy a sardonic spectacular, this show is for you.
Clinton The Musical opens April 9, 2015
New World Stage
340 West 50th Street
New York, NY
Call Telecharge: 212-239-6200