BWW Review: Of Thee I Sing at the Tiles Center

BWW Review: Of Thee I Sing at the Tiles Center

Upon entering the theater, brightly lit stars graced the stage. While it's intentions were to symbolically represent the stars on the American flag, it also indicated the level of talent the audience would endure.

Of Thee I Sing was originally produced for the Broadway stage in 1931 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; it was the first musical ever to win this high honor. At that time, playwright George S. Kaufman and the legendary Gershwin brothers were dabbling with satirical musicals and were fresh off their last hit show, Strike Up the Band, a satirical take on American warfare. The Gershwins, Kaufman and dramatist/screenwriter Morrie Ryskind began work on what would become Of Thee I Sing, a satire focusing on how political idealism is consistently in conflict with corruption and incompetency. Although this was incredibly risky at the time, especially with Herbert Hoover in office, the laugh out loud riot became a hit

Seeing this production at the Tilles Center truly was an eye-opening experience. I was astounded by this show's relevancy, 85 years later. If I did not have any knowledge of this show's production history, I would have thought I was seeing a brand new musical spoofing the current "reality star-in-chief". Of Thee I Sing tells the story of inexperienced presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen (Bryce Pinkham) who is lacking a campaign platform. Wintergreen's advisors engineer a platform that will ultimately end with the presidential candidate marrying the winner of a campaign sponsored beauty pageant. The winner is the beautiful Diana Devereaux (Elizabeth Stanley), however, Wintergreen refuses to marry her and instead falls in love with beauty pageant director Mary Turner (Denee Benton). Chaos and scandal ensues when the dejected Devereaux turns out to be a descendant of Napoleon. On Devereaux's behalf, the French ambassador (David Pittu) demands that Wintergreen honor his promise to the nation by marrying Devereaux (which in turn shows how a foreign nation can influence a presidency) or face impeachment.

It was truly wonderful to see that the show's comedy still resulted in guffaws. This was mainly because of the very talented David Pittu, Kevin Chamberlin and Mo Rocca. Pittu echoed the French shenanigans of Peter Sellers's Jacques Clouseau; he was hilariously over-the-top. Chamberlin played the dim-witted Vice President Alexander Throttlebottom to comic perfection. Rocca, satirist and correspondent on CBS Sunday Morning, served as the evening's narrator. It was truly great to see Rocca returning to his satirical roots from The Daily Show; he provided a perfect blend of satire, anecdotal history and plot. His best line of the night involved commentary on the show's hit song "Who Cares?". Rocca said, "Wasn't it nice to live in a time when "Who Cares?" was a governing show tune and not a political philosophy!" Pinkham and Benton were absolutely lovely as the President and First Lady, but the true star of this production was Elizabeth Stanley. I had seen Miss Stanley in Company, Million Dollar Quartet and On the Town, I had no idea how truly powerful her voice is. Stanley has an absolutely beautiful, operatic voice; she knocked it out of the park.

Once again, Ted Sperling has directed another brilliant production. Sperling also conducted the powerful Master Voices Chorus and Orchestra. It was truly refreshing to hear fellow audience members say "Oh, this is fantastic!" during the intermission. The audience could not be more enthralled with this piece. City Center Encores! should team up with Mr. Sperling and get a revival up and rolling. If they decide to modernize their revival, I suggest re-titling the show to Of Thee I Tweet! The parallels between this show and what's going on in the world are truly extraordinary. Atlantic City! Beauty pageants! Un-established political candidates! Dim-witted politicians! A foreign nation colluding with the White House! Need I say more?

BWW Review: Of Thee I Sing at the Tiles Center

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From This Author Nicholas Pontolillo

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