Corrections or additions?
This review by Simon Saltzman was prepared for U.S. 1 Newspaper and
posted on www.princetoninfo.com on February 15. All rights reserved.
Bush is Bad: The Musical Cure for the Blue-State Blues
The Democrats apparently haven’t got a clue how to either
effectively stand up to the demagogic divisive agenda of this
administration, or to bolster more support from its ever-wavering
constituency. The entertainment industry knows exactly what it can do
and does it with commitment, focus, and brio. Three New York shows —
"Bush is Bad," "Bush Wars: Musical Revenge," and "Laughing Liberally"
— are doing what they can to lift liberal spirits and give the ruling
right the old one-two. They are not afraid to bring their
democratically principled opposition to the fore in the true spirit of
"Laughing Liberally," an evening of stand-up comedy, has already
played its one-night-only stand at Town Hall on Saturday, February,
but is expected to return for an extended Off-Broadway run. "Bush
Wars: Musical Revenge" is a satire on Bush, Cheney, Social Security,
the courts, and science. I have not yet seen it, but it recently
opened at the Collective Unconscious, 279 Church Street and runs
through Sunday, February 19. The longest-running of these politically
propelled entertainments is "Bush is Bad," playing since September,
2005, and the most likely to continue indefinitely.
There no beating around the Bush (no pun intended) in this
occasionally trenchant and tight little revue that skewers the current
administration with an emphasis on "the smirking chimp who currently
occupies the White House." There is also no respite from the
purposefulness and single-mindedness of its creator/composer/lyricist,
Joshua Rosenblum, who impressed many with his vibrant and witty score
for Fermat’s Last Tango, produced by the York Theater Company in 2000.
He certainly leaves no doubt as to where his political feelings and
alliances are as he gleefully and meaningfully skewers "the liars and
scum" in the federal government.
Yes, those are harsh words, but perhaps they are not harsh enough for
some of the presumably progressive audiences that have kept the revue
going since September 29, 2005. Republicans should be duly forewarned
that Rosenblum’s agenda is clearly laid out in 21 corrosively comical
songs, all of which denounce just about everything this administration
Preaching to the choir may be in part therapeutic, and in the case of
"Bush is Bad," it is also empowering. However, there is also a
predictable aspect to Rosenblum’s parodic punches. The format is
simple, almost simplistic in its presentation. A pianist (David
Wolfson played with gusto at the performance I attended, taking over
for regular accompanist Rosenblum, who had the night off) shares the
stage with Kate Baldwin, Neal Mayer, and Tom Treadwell. These three
personable entertainers perform solo or as an ensemble with the
prescribed energy and enthusiasm devised by director/choreographer
If our willingness to be surprised, shocked, and awed is too rarely
rewarded, it is due more to the fact that the administration’s
embarrassing faux pas and grievous failures are already old news. The
performers are gifted and excellent singers but are not particularly
at their best in creating caricatures like those deployed in revues
like "Forbidden Broadway." Neither are the skits as sophisticated in
their political observations as seen in the various editions of
Capitol Steps. Ensemble numbers are the best and reach a peak with
"Scooter Libby Superstar," in which the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber
gets infused into a mock mini-operetta.
Rosenblum’s gift for the melodic is notable, as in the revue’s
spirited opening number, "How Can 59 Million People Be So Dumb," that
cannily prepares us for the mixture of verve and vitriol that follows.
The fact that most musical comedies these days cannot boast that even
half of their songs are really memorable makes the five or six songs
that are excellent in "Bush is Bad" something to shout about. One of
my favorites is "Das Busch Ist Schlect (Bad)," a really hilarious
parody of German lieder in which you-know-who, Rumsfeld, and Cheney
become the recipients of baritone Treadwell’s guttural,
phlegm-producing German vocals. You don’t need to know German to get
the message. Drag is not beyond Treadwell’s scope, and he gets points
for his clownish impersonation of Barbara Bush giving an "Ethics
Such issues as deficits in the trillions, the legalization of
hand-guns, and the funding of the arts are woven through numbers like
"Good Conservative Values" (in two parts), as being gay is in "I May
Be Gay (But I’m No Lesbian"). "Mom is Pissed" admits a defensive Mary
Cheney (Baldwin), who cannot quite get the L word out. The debates are
amusingly remembered as Bush is wired with a super-large transmitter
that is secured beneath his shoulder pad so he can hear Karl Rove.
"I’m losing you, Karl," says Bush as Rove’s prompting gets lost in
No political parody would be complete without homage to Kurt Weill.
Baldwin perfectly captures the essence of Lotte Lenya and the futile
despair of Laura Bush, as she bewails her marriage to "the borderline
illiterate" in "Sure, You Betcha, George." But it takes the actual
words of GWB to push the audience into unrestrained laughter: "the
past is over…Is our kids learning?…If we don’t succeed, we risk
failure…It’s time to restore chaos and order…When we talk of war,
we are really talking about peace…Put food on your family…Make the
pie higher." Quotes like these are reason enough for an atheist to
say, "God help us."
*** Simon Saltzman
Bush is Bad, Thursday and Friday nights, 9 p.m., Triad
Theater, 158 West 72nd Street (near Broadway. $25 with a two drink
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.