Way back last spring, when we were writing and editing copy for the big Season Brochure, I was charged with creating the titles for the three editions of The Thalia Follies: A Political Cabaret that we were planning for the season: one in late October, not long before Election Day; the second in late February, a month after Inauguration Day; and the third in early June.
The first was a no-brainer. After covering all the endless Republican and Democratic primary races in earlier editions of the Follies, it was a relief to call the October show “At Last—An Election!” And what with all the national and local fervor of the historic Presidential race, plus the addition of God’s 2008 gift to political satirists, Governor Sarah Palin, The Follies was a smashing success, selling out every performance, at home and on tour.
But, from the perspective of the previous April, what to call the February 2009 Follies? It looked like a Democratic year, with a nation tired of eight years of George W. Bush, but who could know for sure? A Democratic anthem we had sung in earlier shows said, “It’s ours to lose, we’ve done it before…we managed to lose it with Kerry, and we managed to lose it with Gore.” And if the Democrats went ahead and nominated a Black man, could anyone confidently predict he would win? So we couldn’t call the show “Obama’s America” or anybody else’s America.
So then I thought, well if there is a major transfer of power, we could call it “America Reborn!” And if it turned out the right wing fundamentalist Republicans managed to capture the White House yet again with their faith-based initiatives and we were all going to live the next four or eight years in a Born Again cultural atmosphere, why then the February Follies title would still be applicable! It just needed a little tweaking, since no one knows what will actually happen in the new Obama Administration, so we added the question mark and are now preparing rehearsals for “America Reborn?”, which will be playing four scheduled performances in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, February 19, 20, and 21.
While the October Follies guest star was the wonderful comedienne Jane Curtin, the guest star for America Reborn? will be our old friend and Selected Shorts regular, the two-time Tony Award winner James Naughton. I persuaded Jim that he has been doing so much serious acting this season that he deserved the fun of rehearsing and performing some funny songs and sketches.
I also remembered that way back at the beginning of the Clinton Administration, having met Clinton in the course of his campaign, Jim and his wife Pam were invited to watch the Super Bowl with Bill and Hillary at the White House, and sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom! I know that we and all the Naughtons’ other friends were truly impressed. So how could I not cast the handsomely graying Jimmy as his old pal Bill in a singing duet with Ivy Austin (who Follies fans know is our regular Hillary incarnation) in which the former Prez exchanges pillow talk with his wife, the Secretary of State, giving her his own sage advice on world diplomacy?
I’m also sending Jim, before rehearsals start, a sketch in which he will portray White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel taking a call from his father in Tel Aviv about how to influence his boss Barack on the issues in the middle east. David Buskin has written “The Bail Out Boogie”—a trio for himself, Jim and Marion Cowings—and our wonderful girl group The Chalks are at work on a Detroit Auto Industry automotive love song. I’m trying to finish my own solo in which I’m the Veep Joe Biden, and since everyone knows that no musical can be a success without a Latin American number with great Latino rhythm, we will soon be rehearsing “GuantanamoSpa” about the new Cuban seaside luxury resort that was once a torture camp.
There’s all that and more, folks. Leenya Rideout, the splendid soprano, will offer the world premiere of the new recently discovered lyrics to Villa-Lobos’s “Bachianas Brasilieras,” entitled “Miserias Economicas.”
And, of course, we will be watching the first weeks of the new Obama Administration, and chances are we will be writing sketches and songs right up to opening night, February 19. Will the February Follies equal the success of the October version? That’s up to you, friends. Just remember that every performance in October sold out and people were turned away. Don’t let it happen to you!