Elana Berkowitz and Mark Pike, OffTheBus correspondents, follow the youth beat this week while traveling through Iowa.
This couldn't get more meta--a review of a theatrical production about a journalist who goes to Iowa to cover the election. Suffice it to say that CAUCUS!: THE MUSICAL is a bit Off-Broadway--Des Moines to be specific.
The show does an excellent job of capturing the ridiculousness of the political process, lampooning the quirks of all the clichéd presidential candidates... and then some. There's the preacher, the womanizer, the Muslim African-American woman, and the gay Jew. All of them compete for the vote of one stereotypical voter, "Eldon."
Eldon catches the attention of a New York Times reporter when he gives an impassioned speech in the middle of his local diner, renouncing the Republican Party because of the current President's unjust war (any similarities to real people or events is purely coincidental). In a soapbox soliloquy, Eldon declares himself an Independent, which his best friend, "Marlon", calls the "bisexual of American politics."
Needless to say, the play enacts the policy of No Joke Left Behind. Whether rattling off names of cities in Iowa to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Bermuda, Bahamas", or namedropping Flock of Seagulls when discussing Iran, the production doesn't miss a beat.
Interspersed between scenes, the play features radio ads attacking each of the candidates. The mud slinging is gut busting. The fake advertisements are so well done, that the political consulting industry would be wise to take note of the hilarious voiceovers.
Nick Rustin, age 14, thought the show reminded him a bit of a "mix of the Colbert Report, Daily Show, and South Park." The description was spot-on, and judging by the audience applause, writer Robert John Ford should be pleased with his product.
Songs like "I Declare" and "Anything for a Vote" give a melodic voice to the politician's pandering. In the latter, the characters sing fictionalized accounts of potential presidents doing good deeds to earn the trust of locals. Michael Dukakis does the dishes, Steve Forbes cures hiccups, and Bill Clinton... well, you probably already know the punch line to that joke.
Iowans will find much of the situational comedy in this musical familiar, and visitors will learn things like Dubuque is not pronounced like barbeque.
So, who does Eldon end up supporting? I don't want to spoil your theater experience by revealing too much. So... who does Greg Millar, the actor playing Eldon, support in real life?
"I'm a little undecided, but actually, I like Richardson. I know he probably doesn't have a shot, he's not one of the big three but a big thing in the show is to go with who you believe in and not letting who you think will win effect your decision. But, I do like Edwards too."
Interestingly enough, Millar (and half the cast) have never actually caucused before in real life. Millar's wife, "a big time Obama supporter", has usually left him with the kids and headed to the caucus alone. But, this year is different and Millar promises to caucus.
Naturally, CAUCUS!: THE MUSICAL has one night off--January 3, 2008.