The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp D Review
The Fix
— the mantra repeated by politicians and king/queen makers regarding winning elections.
Jessica Lauren Ball and Mark Evans (Photo: Margot Schulman)
The election of 2016 is already well under way although the primaries don't start for six months and the general election is 15 months away. However, should you need a primer on what goes on behind the scenes in politics, The Fix will fill you in.

John Dempsey's book and composer Dana P. Rowe's musical now playing at Signature Theatre is a cynical look at priming a candidate. The music is rousing and some of the lyrics are very sophisticated and clever.

Scenic designer Misha Kachman's building evokes the kind of pomp and circumstance that fronts deal-making and pecadillos. None of this will seem out of the ordinary to anyone who follows the news. Politicians are a breed apart. Especially those who are the embodiment of hypocrisy as The Fix ably exposes.

In the very first scene Senator Reed Chandler (Bobby Smith) dies in flagrante delicto. His soul, if you can call it that , haunts his ambitious widow Violet (Christine Sherrill, a Jackie Kennedy look-alike) and his brother Grahame (Lawrence Redmond) who is confined to a wheel chair and hampered by his past. Violet and Grahame's thirst for power centers on turning Violet and Cal's son, Cal Chandler(Mark Evans) into a pol who nimbly climbs the ranks from local to national electoral office. There is, however, a problem: Cal is a lazy, spoiled rich kid who would rather smoke weed and screw around than run for office. Violet (who is about as far from a "shrinking violet" as can be imagined) and to a lesser extent Grahame, set about grooming him.

Cal's transformation is most ably confirmed by the very gifted triple-threat Mark Evans Though he looks as American as apple pie he's a native of Wales, the land of very fine singers. Cal is groomed, married off to Deborah (Jessica Lauren Ball) the innocuous, immaculately coiffed and conservatively dressed ( well done, costumer Hunter Kaczorowski), as his climb to the top proceeds. Following his mother's advice he is now willing to do "whatever it takes."

The pressure and the boredom Cal finds with the false promises he makes (to himself and others) leads to trouble. While looking for some down time, a diversion, Cal meets seedy night club singer, Tina (Rachel Zampelli), who shows him a thing or two about life on the other side of the tracks.

Waiting in the wings to wield his power is Anthony Gliardi (Dan Manning) a mafioso type whose knowledge of the pols less-than-clean past provides him with heavy-duty bargaining chips. So far, so good. With only a few slow patches this act works well. The inside jokes presented on the tv news projections go far to explain that this is satire and that everyone involved with the production had fun.

Act two is a mishmash of skits, styles and stories beginning with Grahame and Reed's "Two Guys at Harvard," an ode to sibling rivalry done as a vaudeville turn with Bobby Smith's delightful tap dancing. He's light on his feet and rhythmically smooth. A Busby Berkeley not-quite- burlesque fan dance adds nothing; also true for a torch song "Mistress of Deception," delivered unconvincingly by Rachel Zampelli.

Violet gets her turn with "Spin," a number that proves her acting and vocal strengths. "Grit your teeth, sell the lies ...." she sings. "Spin for the Gov'ner, to make him look pure, spin for the doctors, who spin for the cure, spin for the troubles you're desp'rate to mend, spin for the player whose game's at an end." Is it any wonder that her former lover calls her "a first class, high-toned Washington bitch?"

While the second act feels like out-takes from the first act, there is one show-stopping number, "The Ballad of Bobby "Cracker" Barrel" performed perfectly, with show-stopping zeal by the consistently wonderful Will Gartshore. Indeed, this all too brief ode to Violet's down low past is the high point of the evening.

Two other players stand out. Stephen Gregory Smith as Peter Hale the politician's bodyguard/enabler has very few lines but his stiff posture and determined demeanor say it all. Nickolas Vaughan's Army Sergeant leads the ensemble in "Army Chant" with a straight face and writhing body. Watch this guy's moves. It's impossible not to.

As always with Signature productions, the on-stage but hidden by a scrim 8-piece orchestra under Jon Kalbfleisch's direction is very fine indeed. The ensemble's ability to move as one is a given and some of Matthew Gardner's choreography is very clever. Although the evening is a mixed bag of good, very good and ho-hum boring, The Fix's highs are very entertaining.

The Fix
Books and Lyrics by John Dempsey
Music by Dana P. Rowe
Orchestrations by Michael Gibson
Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreography by Matthew Gardiner
Scenic Design by Misha Kachman
Costume Design by Hunter Kaczorowski
Lighting Design by Ryan O'Gara
Video Design by Hannah Marsh
Sound Design by Lane Elms

Cast: Jamie Eacker (Donna); Stephen Gregory Smith (Peter Hale); Bobby Smith (Senator Reed Chandler); Lawrence Redmond (Grahame Chandler); Violet Chandler (Christine Sherrill); Mark Evans (Cal Chandler); Caroline Wolfson (Danielle); Will Gartshore (Bobby "Cracker" Barrel); Nickolas Vaughan (Army Sergeant); Jessica Lauren Ball (Deborah Pullman); Maria Egler (Maria); Tracy Lynn Olivera (Leslie Pynchon); Rachel Zampelli (Tina McCoy); Dan Manning (Anthony Gliardi); Matt Conner (Frankie Diamonte); Christopher Mueller (Cardinal O'Hare); Mark Chandler (Richard); Nick Lehan (Carl Moreland); Jordan DeBona (Guard). Dance Captain: Jamie Eacker.

Musicians: Jon Kalbfleisch (Conductor/Piano); Bill Mulligan (Reed 1); Ben Bokor (Reed 2); Chris Walker (Trumpet); Jacob Kidder (Keyboard 2); Gerry Kunkel (Guitar); Bill Hones (Bass); David Murray (Drums).

Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Va. 22206;; tickets start at $40; 703-820-9771. Performances August 11, 2015 through September 20, 2015. Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Review by Susan Davidson based on August 20, 2015 performance.
Musical Numbers
Act One
    "Let the Games Begin," Reed and Ensemble
    "The Funeral," Ensemble
    "One, Two, Three," Cal
    "Embrace Tomorrow," Violet, Grahame and Bobby
    "Army Chant," Army Sergeant and Soldiers
    "Control," Reed and Cal
    "Man and Wife," Violet, Grahame, Peter & Ensemble
    "America's Son," Grahame, Violet, Peter, Cal, Leslie and Ensemble
    "I See the Future," Cal
    "Lonely is a Two Way Street," Tina
    "The Press Conference/Simple Words," Grahame, Cal and Ensemble
    "Alleluia," Tina
    "Flash, Pop, Sizzle," Maids
    "Who Said," Grahame and Cal
    "Don't Blame the Prince," Cal and Grahame
    "Dangerous Games," Gliardi and Ensemble

Act Two
    "Two Guys at Harvard," Grahame, Reed, Violet, Bobby and Male Ensemble
    "Mercy Me," Grahame and Ensemble
    "Alleluia," (reprise) Cal and Tina
    "One, Two, Three," (reprise) Cal
    "Cleaning House," Violet and Peter
    "The Upper Hand," Cal and Grahame
    "Spin," Violet
    "The Ballad of Bobby "The Cracker" Barrel, Bobby, Reed, Violet and Ensemble
    "Child's Play," Cal Chandler and Reporters
    "Simple Words/Dangerous Games (reprise), Cal, Gliardi, Grahame, Violet, Peter and Ensemble
    "Mistress of Deception," Tina
    "Finale," Company
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of The Fix
  • I disagree with the review of The Fix
  • The review made me eager to see The Fix
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message
The New Similes Dictionary
New Similes Dictionary

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows- view 1st episode free

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show amazon

©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from