Monday, August 28, 2023

How to Steal an Election

In this sad time of theatres' laying off staff, shortening seasons, and disappearing altogether, there is at least one bright spot: the York Theatre Company's Musicals in Mufti are back!!

Musicals in Mufti are somewhat informal (actors get only four days of rehearsal, they carry scripts during performances, costumes tend to be simple, etc) but always worthwhile. Sometimes they bring back familiar titles: eg, Tenderloin, Subways Are for Sleeping, I Love My Wife, I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, The Baker's Wife. Sometimes they reconsider iffy but interesting shows: Cyrano, Roadside, Big, Minnie's Boys. And sometimes they provide rare looks at the odd and/or historical: Keen, Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi. Sometimes the original creators are involved; Comden and Green rewrote a bit of Billion Dollar Baby, a show they had created 53 years earlier! And the performers are often amazing, whether early in their careers (Kristin Chenoweth) or well-know (Tyne Daly).

I would categorize the current Musical in Mufti, How to Steal an Election, as odd and historical. The cast is astonishing. A satirical revue in which Calvin Coolidge (the charming Jason Graae) explains politics to disaffected young people in the late 1960s, its humor is hit and miss, and its point of view a bit inconsistent. Some of the songs are funny, a few are beautiful, and some aren't either. Is it a great show? No. Am I glad I saw it? Yes: partially just to have seen it; partially to enjoy the high points; partially to watch/listen to that amazing cast; and partially to just be at a Musical in Mufti again after so many years. 

Years ago, when I saw Kristin Chenoweth in Billion Dollar Baby, I knew the second she opened her mouth that she was a star, as did the rest of the audience. You could feel the excitement. A similar moment happened last night when Alex Joseph Grayson started singing. Electricity zinged through the audience, and his applause was long and loud. Gorgeous voice, gorgeous man. For his sake and ours, I hope he works for many, many years in many, many shows. (Some of you may already know his work; he was recently in Parade on Broadway. But he was new to me, and a real revelation.)

While Grayson was extraordinarily extraordinary, the rest of the cast was also wonderful, with beautiful voices, good comic acting, and even some dandy tap dancing: Courtney Arango, Kelly Berman, Emma Degerstedt, Drew Tanabe.

How to Steal an Election is on through next weekend; it closes Sept 3rd. The rest of the season consists of The Lieutenant (opening Sept 10th), Golden Rainbow (Sept 24th), and When We Get There (Oct 8th). The York's website is here.

Wendy Caster

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