From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
DES MOINES, IOWA -- OK, it's not Les Mis. But after six months of this, we could all use a laugh.
Last night marked the opening of Des Moines' most anticipated theatrical production -- Caucus! The Musical. The vision of Midwestern playwright Robert John Ford, the play gleefully pokes fun at the descent of four fictional presidential candidates into the small communities of Iowa by chronicling their shameless courtship of one Iowa farmer and his family.
A quick run through the original soundtrack demonstrates the production's flippant and witty tone. The apocryphal candidates and their campaign managers' soft-shoe to the "Tough Question SideStep." Christian Right favorite the Rev. Stanley Jensen declares his candidacy, crooning, "So I questioned should I run? / First I wasn't much enticed / Then I got the thumbs up sign from Lord Jesus Christ." The gaggle of politicos ventures into the snowy hinterlands of Algona and Decorah with a Hawaiian-shirt clad parody of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo." And the whole cast hits a patriotic note with its rousing finale of "Get Off Your Sorry Ass and Vote."
Although the production's characters are not one-to-one spoofs of the actual candidates, there are a few suspicious parallels between the real-life contenders and the singing ones. Fake Sen. Nora Halliday, an anti-war female African-American, who is unabashed about her historic candidacy, is a mish-mash of Obama and Clinton. (Interestingly, she turns out to be Muslim as well.) Jensen, the Bible-thumping reverend character who is attacked by his rivals for "taking the 'fun' out of 'fundamental,'" wears his faith on his sleeve a la Mike Huckabee. And a mix of the more unsavory characterizations of the real-life candidates yields fictional dimwit Sen. Harrison Tate, a gaffe machine who's too busy philandering with his cute campaign manager to read up on Roe v. Wade. He proposes that, "It depends on how deep the water is."
Despite an ultimately predictable ending that is a gratuitous homage to earnest retail politicking, Caucus! The Musical is good for at least a few belly laughs for those who have done the Iowa thing long enough to appreciate its quirks. One candidate's mispronunciation of Dubuque had THIS honorary Iowan in stitches, anyway.
It's funny, as they say, because it's true.