Clinton: The Musical

What was the former US president’s ticket out of the White House will make its US debut.

Reuters July 09, 2014

NEW YORK: Former United States president Bill Clinton danced with death by having an affair with then White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which will now be staged at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, as Clinton: The Musical makes its US debut.

The musical is a bawdy, raucous farce parodying what came to be known as the Lewinsky scandal, with two actors portraying the dual sides of Clinton. Critics have described the show that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in 2012 before transferring to London as “witty, quirky” and a “delicious political satire.” It depicts Clinton and his wife Hillary’s attempts to save the presidency following his affair.

“Our play is a loving poke at Bill Clinton,” Duke LaFoon, who portrays the Clinton who gets into trouble, said at a preview. “He is quite the character, so there is a lot there to mine for jokes.” Karl Kenzler, as William J Clinton, is the idealistic politician who genuinely wants to change the country and help his fellow man. “Ultimately, this show is a sharp farce. It’s a parody and people make a lot of comparisons to South Park and The Book of Mormon,” said Kenzler, referring to the television comedy and hit Broadway play.

Written by Australian brothers Paul and Michael Hodge, the show has performances between July 18 and July 25 at the festival, a showcase for new musicals. The musical premieres in New York following publication of Hillary Clinton’s memoir Hard Choices, with the country guessing about whether she will run for president in 2016. “When she is asked specifically about the scandal, her answer is, ‘I’m over that’,” said Alet Taylor, who plays Hillary in the show.

The Clintons did not respond to a request for comment about the show. There are also portrayals of Lewinsky, former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich, and Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who issued a report on the scandal.

Paul Hodge decided to write the musical after seeing a play in Australia with his family about a former Australian prime minister. The idea emerged when his dad suggested that Clinton’s story would make a great musical.

Hodge was initially reluctant about having two actors play the former US leader, as suggested by his brother. Then he read Clinton’s autobiography. “He, himself, said he felt like he had led these two parallel lives and other people like his political advisor Dick Morris had little names for him like ‘Saturday night Bill’, ‘Sunday morning president’ or the ‘the boy scout and the politician’,” said Hodge.

Director Adam Arian collaborated with Hodge for nearly a year to bring the musical to the US. “I think Bill Clinton has a certain humanity that endears him to people and that he has both strengths and weaknesses. I think people understand that he is a human being,” said Hodge.

Clinton may have eventually been given a clean bill of health, but the musical is all set to give us a walk down one of the most jolting occurrences in the history of US presidencies. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2014.

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