BWW Review: ADORE US! LINE by Robert John Ford at Iowa Stage: A Heart Warming and Hysterical look at getting 'One Single Nomination'
It is that season again in Iowa. No, I'm talking about winter, I'm talking about caucus season. Candidates are coming to the state vying for something - one single nomination. Iowa Stage is taking a look at the candidates and the raucous caucus in their first offering of 2020, Robert Jason Ford's newest parody "Adore Us! Line." With the opening weekend already being sold out, this show is one of the hottest tickets in the area and is only here through February 2.
So what is "Adore Us! Line"? It is Robert Jason Ford's latest musical parody musical that combines "A Chorus Line" and all the candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination in the 2020 presidential election. The premise of the show is that every Iowa voter in the democratic party is given 90 minutes alone with all the nominees to determine who they are going to give their single vote. What's great about this voter is that he is undecided. This production examines the candidates, their views, and Iowa's first in the nation status.
One of the many things I appreciated from this show is how it tackled the current conversations at the national level. Sometimes this was done through dialogue, other times through song. Some of the topics included media coverage for female candidates, if a woman could serve as president, and do you vote for the person you feel will be best, or the person you think can win. It doesn't answer these questions but gives the audience a little food for thought. It also brings it close to home by asking about Iowa's first in the nation status, and reasons that should change and why it should stay.
For those familiar with "A Chorus Line," there are several nods to the show. There are four walls in the back that have reflective paint on them, similar to the mirrors in "A Chorus Line." All of the new lyrics were fun, and many of the songs had the same emotional pull they had in "A Chorus Line." Some of the laughs in the show came from seeing how each song was adapted. There were two that I felt found the same feel as the original songs. The first is "In the White House," which is a parody of "At the Ballet." In this song, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren, sing about dreaming that a woman could be president. For me, it was one of the most powerful songs in the show. The other song I felt hit the same tone as the original was "Pocahontas" sung by Warren, which is a cheeky reference to "Dance 10, Looks 3." It cleverly looks at something Warren had done but calls it by the event which led to it, similar to its counterpart in "A Chorus Line."
At the helm of this production is Maxwell Schaeffer as Director and Megan Helmers as Choreographer. These two are becoming a go-to team for musicals in Des Moines. Schaeffer has done a terrific job of giving the audience a show that is full of humor but also has heart. Helmer's choreography does an amazing job of giving a nod to the original dancing in "A Chorus Line," while keeping it original. This can be seen in "I Hope I Win It," "Wisconsin and Ohio," and the "Finale." Each of them has nods that people who are fans of the original production will appreciate.
The cast of this production does an amazing job of balancing where they can be a character versus a caricature of each of these candidates. When they do become a caricature of the candidate, it is never done in a negative light. With as many candidates as there have been over the last year, this production relies on two utility actors, Sydney M Allen and Michael Clinkscales, to play multiple candidates, sometimes having to change hair and costumes in less than 30 seconds. Both of them are fun for the audience to watch as they become completely different characters every time they come onstage.
Another fun part of the show is how it breaks down the 4th wall with this production by having Eric Olson, who plays the Iowa Voter, start as a member of the audience, and ask his questions to the candidates sitting in the audience. The moment he gets called on, he is instantly relatable to the audience, which is key to this production working. As he enters, he becomes an everyman character who asks questions that go beyond the typical questions we would see in a debate between the candidates.
The cast of 11 is completed with hilarious and heartfelt performances from Charlie Reese as Joe Biden, Madison Ray, as Cory Booker, Ryan Henzi as Pete Buttigieg, Davida Williams as Kamala Harris, Heidi Mason as Amy Klobuchar, Jonathan deLima as Beto O'Rourke, Joe Smith as Bernie Sanders, and Mary Bricker as Elizabeth Warren. Each actor has moments where they will have you laughing in your seats, and then turning around and inspiring you with what that candidate could do for the country.
While this production won't help you make up your mind with who to vote for, it's not meant to do that. "Adore Us! Line" takes the audience on a journey that asks deeper questions, about who the candidates are, and why it's important to get out and vote for whoever your candidate is. Make sure you get your tickets fast for this production as the first three performances were sold out. To find out more about "Adore Us! Line" or Iowa Stage, visit https://www.iowastage.org/
To purchase tickets, visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/istc-adore-us-line/
Review written by DC Felton
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