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A CurtainUp Review
Encores! Concert Version of Of Thee I Sing
| Wintergreen for President! |
Hes the man the people choose
Loves the Irish and the Jews.
--- the Chorus
When I reviewed Tina Laundau's production of this first-ever musical to win a Pulitzer ( Review) the sour taste of the Bush/Kerry election campaign was still strong, giving fresh bite George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind's silly but deliciously sardonic send-up of electoral politics. Two years have gone by and the Encores! revival comes at a time when our politics are more than ever ripe for satirizing.
Victor Garbor as President John Wintergreen.
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Like Herbert Hoover who was in the White House when this show opened at the Music Box, our current Wintergreen has made American voters more disgruntled than devoted. And so, old-fashioned and silly as it is, Of Thee I Sing still has plenty of sting. Most importantly, the Gershwin Brothers' score is as thrillingly diverse as ever, embracing everything from ballads to songs perfect for ballroom and tap dancing, to Gilbert and Sullivan-like patter songs.
I was a bit on the fence about seeing another revival so soon after the Papermill invested this musicalized political cartoon with great wit and humor. But my qualms faded as fast as the reputation of a politician caught with his hand in the public till when the Encores! presidential and vice-presidential candidates were announced: President Wintergreen to be played by Victor Garber, too long the theater's loss as a musical performer and television's gain as a master spy; and Jefferson May, of I Am My Own Wife fame, nominated to be the vice-presidential version of Mr. Cellophane, Alexander Throttlebottom. Any remaining trace of been there-done that vanished the minute Paul Gemignani stepped on the podium and his superb orchestra began playing the show's thrilling overture. I was caught right up in this sophisticated, fitting finale of the Encores! season.
Garber may be a bit old for the part but he's still handsome and debonair. His rich tenor is in good shape, so he's just fine as the man who is big on presidential bearing but short on the smarts. Wintergreen's credentials are underwhelming but his smartypants advisers are determined to put him in the White House. Their scheme to get him elected has nothing to do with terrorism or weapons of mass destruction but fixates on a national beauty contest -- the winner to be the future First Lady. But as George W. Bush switched from catching Osama bin Laden to satisfying himself with Saddam Hussein and terrorists generally, Wintergreen rejects the sexy contest winner Diana Devereaux (Jenny Powers) in order to wed a corn muffin baking office assistant named Mary Turner (Jennifer Laura Thompson).
The silliness --and fun -- is racheted up in the second act, when the Wintergreens are ensconced in the Oval Office but haunted by the ghost of the litigious Southern belle. Seems she's a descendant of Napoleon which threatens U.S-French relations and also Wintergreen's presidency. Naturally, this shines the spotlight on the heretofore fly on the wallpaper vice-president Throttlebottom.
To coordinate cast of thirty-five with very little rehearsal time, takes some doing but under John Rando's pacey direction the entire cast is at its vocal and humorous best. Jefferson Mays is a droll nonentity, with his vocal talents falling into the sprech-singing category. Jennifer Laura Thompson is likely to be everybody's favorite muffin baker and Jenny Powers is a riot and a half as the disgruntled Devereaux. Contributing mightily to the well-timed foolishness are Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, , Jonathan Freeman, Eric Michael Gillett. David Pittu zestfully chews the scenery as the French Ambassador. Jeffry Denman and Mara Davi lead the ensemble in choreographer Randy Skinner's peppy song and dance sequences.
John Lee Beatty has masterfully evoked the political atmosphere, with the orchestra in the middle of an upstage and downstage playing area. Thus the musicians function as the guests at the ceremony that has the Supreme Court Judge simultaneously and hilariously conduct Wintergreen's swearing in and wedding, and as the rest of the Senate at the Impeachment hearings. There are even two drop-down chandeliers and the mostly black, white and red costumes by Toni-Leslie James further help to make this production a treat for the eyes as well as the ears. Too bad Of Thee I Sing dances and sings for so few performances.
| Of Thee I Sing
Music & Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin
Book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind,
Directed by John Rando
Music Director: Paul Gemignani
Concert Adaptation: David Ives
Cast: Victor Garber (John P. Wintergreen), Jefferson Mays (Vice President Throttlebottom), Jennifer Laura Thompson (Mary Turner), Jonathan Freeman (Senator Lyons), Erick Devine (Senator Jones), Michael Mulheren (Fulton), Jenny Powers (Diana Devereaux) Lewis J. Stadlen (Lippman), David Pittu (the French Ambassador), Wayne Duvall (Gilhoohey), Jeffry Denman (Sam Jenkins); also Eric Michael Gillett, Holly Holcomb, Todd A. Horman, Fred Inkley, Jay Lusteck, Ian Knauer, Raymond Jaramillo McLeod, Marcus Nance, Nina Negri, Greg Stone and Jacqueline Thompson.
Set Design: John Lee Beatty
Cosume Design: Toni-Leslie James
Lighting: Paul Miller
Sound: Dan Moses Schreier
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Running Time: 2 hours plus intermission
City Center (212/763/1205).
6 performances from May 11 to 15, 2006
Elyse Sommer review of May 12th performance
- Overture/The Orchestra
- Wintergreen for President/Campaigners
Who Is The Lucky Girl To Be?/Beauty Contestants
- The Dimple on My Knee/Photographers and Beauty Contestants
- Who is the Lucky Girl to Be? (Reprise /
Jenny Powers, Victor Garber, Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, and Beauty Contestants
- As the Chairman of the Committee/Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, and Erick Devine
Never Was There A Girl So Fair/Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Victor Garber, Jenny Powers, and Ensemble
Some Girls Can Bake a Pie/Victor Garber, Jenny Powers, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, and Ensemble
- Love is Sweeping The Country/Jeffry Denman, Mara Davi, and Ensemble
Of Thee I Sing/Victor Garber, Jennifer Laura Thompson, and Ensemble
Wintergreen for President (Reprise)/Ensemble
Entrance of the Supreme Court Judges/Victor Garber, Supreme Court Judges, Ensemble
- A Kiss for Cinderella/Victor Garber, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, Ensemble
- I Was the Most Beautiful Blossom/Jenny Powers, Victor Garber, Eric ichael Gilbert, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Ensemble
- Some Girls Can Bake a Pie (Reprise)/Victor Garber, Jenny Powers, Eric Michael Gillett, and Ensemble
Of Thee I Sing (Reprise)/Victor Garber and Ensemble
Hello, Good Morning/Jeffry Denman, Mara Davi, Secretaries and Staffers
Who Cares?/Victor Garber, Jennifer Laura Thompson, and Reporters
- Garcon S'il Vous Plait/French Soldiers and Secretaries
- Entrance of the French Ambassador/David Pittu, Victor Garber, and Ensemble
The Illegitimate Daughter/David Pittu, Jenny Powers, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Victor Garber, and Ensemble
Because, Because (Reprise)/Jenny Powers, David Pittu, Victor Garber, Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, Jennifer Laura Thompson, French Soldiers, and Secretaries
- We'll Impeach Him/Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, and Ensemble
Who Cares? (Reprise)/Victor Garber and Jennifer Laura Thompson
Senatorial Roll Call/Jefferson Mays and Senators
- The Impeachm3nt Proceeding/Jefferson Mays, Michael Mulheren,and Senators
- Garcon S'il Vous Plait.(Reprise)/ David Pittu, Michael Mulheren,Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine
- The Illegitimate Daughter (Reprise)/David Pittu and Senators
- Jilted/Jenny Powers, Jefferson Mays, Victor Garber, and Ensemble
I'm About To Be A Mother/Jennifer Laura Thompson and Ensemble
- I Was the Most Beautiful Blossom (Reprise)/Jenny Powers and the Atlantic City Girls
Posterity Is Just Around the Corner/ Victor Garber, Jennifer Laura Thompson, Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, and Ensemble
Trumpeter Blow Your Golden Horn/Michael Mulheren, Lewis J. Stadlen, Wayne Duvall, Jonathan Freeman, Erick Devine, Supreme Court Judges, and Ensemble
- On That Matter No One Budges/Victor Garber, Eric Michael Gillett, David Pittu, Supreme Court Judges, and Ensemble
- Of Thee I Sing (Reprise)/Entire Company
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Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
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