Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Heather Smiley For President at Theater For The New City by Nickolaus Hines

This review of Heather Smiley For President at Theater For The New City was written by Nickolaus Hines and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Heather Smiley For President
Book & Lyrics by Tom Attea
Music Composed by Arthur Abrams
Directed by Mark Marcante
Choreographed by Angela Harriell
Theater For The New City
155 1st Avenue
New York, New York
Reviewed 10/9/15  

The presidential election isn't for more than a year, but that hasn't stopped a slew of Republicans and a few Democrats from campaigning as if voting day were tomorrow. The constant back and forth between candidates is, frankly, exhausting, with few bright points of insight or entertainment. The same can be said of Heather Smiley For President.

Directed by Mark Marcante and written by Tom Attea, Heather Smiley For President takes the past couple of months' talking points for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and puts them into musical form. While the songs in a musical are usually used to move the plot forward, that is not the case here where the bouncy, simplistic, elongated tunes rarely achieve that goal. For a synopsis of the musical, read a list of the political headlines over the past two or three months. Read them all carefully, because each and every one of them is likely to be featured in this three hour trip through hell. Just sitting through this play made me feel like I was wasting my time, which could have been better spent elsewhere. 

Each character is a thinly veiled caricature of one of the currently declared presidential candidates. Slightly altered and thinly disguised names like Ted Obtuse and Donald Rump leave no doubt as to who is supposed to represent whom. The character of Heather Smiley, played by Rebecca Holt, is an unabashed replica of Hillary Clinton, while her husband Bob Smiley, played by Joris Stuyck, is a Bill Clinton with the libido of a 14-year-old boy. After the first six times, the joke of Mr. Smiley grabbing at every available female becomes more like a chore to watch than a joke, and the same happens to the act of Mrs. Smiley trying to keep Mr. Smiley from interfering on the campaign trail.

George Worthington, played by Todd Lewis, is the antagonist of the play, but it is not clear who he is supposed to represent. Each line has a "ripped from the headlines" quality that gives Worthington similar characteristics of Jeb Bush, but Bush is already claimed by a Republican going as Jeb Cushy. His son, George Jr. (Worthington), played by Jacob Storms, further complicates who or what this person is supposed to represent. At one point, Storms gives George Jr. a debonair and snooty accent, and next the accent of a Deep South country boy. The character is also played as being simplistic beyond measure.

Contrived is the only word to describe the way the actors methodically repeated each line with stock over emotion for much of the musical, and a "cheerleading" break only extended my misery and visceral disappointment at having to experience a play I would not sit through again even if paid to do so.

The most serious fault of the entire musical is repetition. Repeated jokes, repeated lyrics, and repeated and unnecessary words. The show comes off with the slice-of-nature of a reality show, but unlike a reality show, it doesn't skip the boring parts of life. If two-thirds of the book were cut, perhaps a repeat of today's headlines would be bearable, possibly even funny.

If current trends continue, the majority of America will get tired of, if they are not already tired of, the presidential race long before it even starts. I repeat myself when I write that the same can be said of Heather Smiley For President. If I have piqued your interest and you remain undeterred, you can see this musical that runs through October 25th for only $15.00 ($10.00 for seniors). Purchase your tickets at www.TheaterForTheNewCity.net or www.smarttix.com or at the box office. In the alternative, you can call 212-254-1109. 

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