Hooray for Captain Spaulding!

Election Day

Book and lyrics by Alex Goldberg
Music and lyrics by Joel Stein
Directed by Laurie Sales
Joint-ed Stock Theatre Alliance
American Theatre of Actors
314 W. 54th St. (http://www.smarttix.com; 212/868-4444)
Equity showcase (closes Jan.30)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Election Day is a new musical comedy about an election gone awry. It has its moments, but overall verges on such unbelievable heights that it never finds its tone. It is unclear if it is trying to be a satire or just a wacky show that has nothing to do with reality. Obviously parts are supposed to be mocking current affairs, but rather than delve into these by making poignant points or comical comments, the show digresses into far-fetched fantasy.

The plot is fairly straightforward. There is an election coming up between the liberal President Elliott Goodrich (Ian Kahn), who has affairs with interns and is pegged as amoral, and the idiotic conservative candidate, Nathan Burke (Robert Scott Denny), the governor from Wyoming who is just a puppet for big business. Big business turns out to be Will Bates (Rick Kiley), who has a clandestine plan to take over the world with his Microsoft-like corporation.

To win the election, Bates plants an intern, Heather Rosenbloom (Monica Yudovich), who eventually falls in love with the President's son, Chadwick (Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone). The other subplot follows the third-world country of Eudemonia, led by the Minister (Bones Rodriguez). The ambitious first-lady Fiona (Meghan McGeary) gets shipped off there as an ambassador in the second act, as more chaos ensues.

Thus, the show starts off fairly typical - there's a conflict, and an election -- two candidates and soon a romance. Where it goes haywire is when the events go from satirical to completely bizarre. It does not help that the dialog is mostly dull, and for a comedy there are very few jokes (and what jokes there are aren't overtly funny). Furthermore, Act Two drags sluggishly and then has three or four false endings followed by two big company numbers before it finally ends.

The score livens the show up a bit. There is variety in musical styles, and there was good energy radiating from the stage. There was a well-rehearsed five-person orchestra, including an actual live wind person, which was a joy to see Off-Off-Broadway! However, unfortunately, the music is mostly unmemorable and undistinguished.

The lyrics are atrocious. Lyrics are supposed to move the plot or delve into a character. These do neither. Some are randomly vulgar -- completely non-sequitur. The vulgarity is supposed to be funny; it is not offensive, just completely out of left field. (Example: the opening number is "Election Day" and for no reason, all of a sudden one character sings, "it's a big erection day." Another example: during the love song, all of a sudden there is a line like: "think of all the fluids we'll share" -- unnecessary and random!). Finally, the lyrics feel rushed and cramped many times, and many rhymes are imperfect or cliché.

The cast tried their best, although not all of them were great singers (not a good thing in a musical). Michele Ragusa as Desiree Shaw, the President's chief of staff, was the standout. She delivered an incredible, passionate rendition of the gospel affirmation, "Hang on Til Tomorrow," which was the definite highlight of the show.

Director Laurie Sales kept the show moving admirably. Pacing was brisk and energy was high, and the staging made good use of the space. The sets, by Aloys Spack, were efficient and functional. The costumes, by Zoe Hamburg, were pleasantly patriotic. Jack Jacobs's lighting design captured the action well. The sound design (lack of a designer is never a good sign) was awfully distracting -- partly the fault of the theatre's awful acoustics, which made it hard to understand some lyrics without straining.

Box Score:

Book: 1/Lyhrics: 0/Music: 0
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting: 1/Sound: 0

Return to Volume Eleven, Number Fifteen Index

Return to Volume Eleven Index

Return to Home Page

Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh