Obama musical entertaining, if uneven
 

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posted Friday, October 30, 2009 - Volume 37 Issue 44

Obama musical entertaining, if uneven
by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

Obama On My Mind
Langston Hughes
Cultural Arts Center
Through November 15


Sitting with the nearly overflow crowd at the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center last weekend, watching the mild spectacle that is Obama On My Mind, the new musical comedy by Teddy Hayes, I had to wonder: Is this too soon?

With his first year not quite over, Obama is already in hot water over the economy, his "slow but steady wins the race" attitude on GLBT issues, and his difficulty making all sides happy about his troop withdrawal policies. The question is legitimate, I think.

Is it too soon to have a musical comedy about a behind-the-scenes look at one small campaign office's ups and downs? Maybe, with so many conservatives pointing fingers at Obama and the sparkle dimming a bit on that winning smile, this show is right on time.

Either way, the show itself, judged on its own merits - never mind the timely subject matter - is at least entertaining to watch, even if a bit uneven in places. Directed by veteran Langston Hughes go-getter Jacqueline Moscou, the actors more than rise to the occasion of performing their varied parts of campaign groupies/office hands. True, some of the characters - particularly Ryan Blackwell's snotty token Gay man and Valerie Meneses' heavily accented Latina - are a bit difficult to swallow, as they're more caricatures of these important voting blocs than realistic portrayals. But in this easy-to-like show, a little bit of hamming it up can be forgiven.

Most likeable are some of the singing/dancing numbers, particularly Demene Hall's funny and embarrassingly obsessive portrayal of Mad Mary, the eternal campaigner, who's determined that, this time, her candidate's going to take the prize - with her help, of course.

Also delightful were Bob Williams' sharply witty number "Somebody Important," and pretty, perky Annie Jantzer's sexy "Telephone Call," done like a burlesque - which, in light of recent political scandals, seems very appropriate. But the number that brought down the house was bluesy Josephine Howell's "Obama On My Mind," both the first time and the number's reprise at the end of the show, which had audience members clapping and cheering as if the show were an actual rally and Obama was just now getting elected at the first black president of the United States.

Bottom line: Even though the show could use a bit of work in the first half, it's a good effort, and doesn't stop it from being a good show to watch. Hopefully, the show will get to travel and in the process will smooth out some of the tiny wrinkles that keep it from being absolutely brilliant. I loved the eagerness with which the actors approached their roles and how genuine they seemed, even if they knew they were reaching a bit over the top for some of the laughs. I almost wish President Obama could see this show (as he does in the show itself, in one segment), if only to reassure him that no matter what's being said by the naysayers, he still has the heart of his voters, the ones who put him in the White House in the first place.

For tickets, go to brownpapertickets.com or call 206-386-1177.



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