BWW Reviews: CLINTON, THE MUSICAL Doesn't Spare the Rodham
"Let me tell you the story of my first presidency," a friendly and accessible Hillary Clinton tells us from behind the Oval Office desk.
Sporting a trademark pants suit and an admirable attempt at sincerity, she explains the premise of the evening.
"In all my life I have only ever loved two men, and they happen to be the same man."
Yes, in Clinton, The Musical, penned by Australian Paul Hodge (book/music/lyrics) and his brother Michael (book), the president who offered us two-for-one is actually portrayed as two different people. There's the noble, reliable statesman, WJ (square-jawed Tom Galantich), and the party boy/political game-player, Billy (rowdy and manipulative Duke LaFoon). The First Lady is the only one who can see both of them and that, as they say, is where the fun begins.
Gently spoofing the foibles of the first couple while admiring their politics, the lively and fun 95-minute show premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe and played a stint two summers ago at the New York Musical Theatre Festival.
Given recent developments, its Off-Broadway run at New World Stages is well-timed. A tasty bit of junk food, director/choreographer Dan Knechtges' madcap mounting captures the same comical spirit as a Saturday Night Live sketch; one of the better ones that people are still talking about when they meet at the office Monday morning.
While the 42nd President may claim the title, it's Rodham who takes center stage and fortunately the role is essayed by that terrific musical theatre comic, Kerry Butler, who is both hilarious and empathetic as the smartest person in the room desperate to protect her future chance to obtain the highest office in the land. Butler's total commitment to the script's absurdities is wonderfully funny and her high belting vocals are joyous to hear.
Veronica J. Kuehn's sweet Monica Lewinsky is portrayed as a star-struck youth. Her one solo, innocently titled "Monica's Song," matches the score's catchiest melody with its dirtiest lyric.
While the music is generally serviceable, the lyrics are frequently clever and the songs fulfill their purpose to give the talented players chances to give bust-out performances.
(By the way, Chelsea Clinton gets a pass, perhaps out of respect for the tradition of leaving the children of politicians alone.)
Musicals like Clinton, no matter how entertaining, have a naturally short shelf life, but who knows? If things go well for the Hodge Brothers their show might retain its relevancy for another decade to come.