Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Vote early and often

Henderson/Bray 2016!
by Christopher Key

Politics, it is said, is not a game for gentlemen.  It’s certainly true of our current election cycle, regardless of whom you support.  Scott Henderson and Martin Bray are gentlemen of the highest caliber and have put their reputations at risk with their latest opus “Broadway Takes On Politics,” opening Thursday at The Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven.  Fear not.  They put politics through the grinder of American Musical Theatre and the only winner is the audience.

“When we started writing this last March,” Henderson said by way of introduction, “we had no idea what this election year was going to be like.”  That deadpan bit of humor immediately got a round of applause from the audience and he needed to say no more.

Some of us remember a kinder, gentler America.  And then we remember a politician, or at least his writer, came up with that.  Broadway has always been a large part of that rose-tinted vision and a few rousing choruses help heal the current pain.

Applying the balm are six of Bellingham’s best polit…umm…actors.  It’s become difficult to tell the difference since the B-movie President, but actors only lie when they’re getting paid to do so.  Pay Scott, Martin, Martha Benedict, Paul Henderson II, Akilah Williams and Jenny Woods with your laughter and applause.  And I promise you…oh, hell…go see for yourself.

In collaboration with the Bellingham Music Club, Henderson has become Bellingham’s Broadway Impresario.  The former CEO of the Whatcom Symphony seems to have a bottomless well of imagination from which he slakes our thirst for singin’, dancin’, actin’ and occasionally all three at the same time.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

His henchman, Martin Bray, helps write and contributes some memorable choreography.  Bray is what’s known in the trade as a “hoofer,” an old-school song-and-dance man.  I could watch him dance forever.  The occasional mad glint in his eye is the result of having taught kindergarten for 34 years.  And lived!

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Narrating the evening is the inimitable, the hostess with the mostess, Martha Benedict.  She exudes showbiz glamour the way politicians exude slime.  Naturally.  That smoky voice and brassy presence have highlighted all of these revues and remind us of something politicians will never have.  Magic.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Paul Henderson II must be something special or I wouldn’t have cast him in so many of my shows.  He’s a five-tool actor.  He can act, sing, dance…I forget what the other two are, but he can do them.  If we didn’t have Hendu around, we’d have to invent him.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

A while back on Facebook, I quoted that old baseball saw “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”  Akilah Williams, whose wit is as dazzling as her voice, immediately responded, “You got something against fat ladies singing?”  “No ma’am,” I said and slunk off into cyberspace.  Not everyone gets that kind of respect from me.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

What would a political revue be without the All-American Girl?  I suspect Jenny Woods may be getting tired of that image, but I swear Norman Rockwell painted her.  Long blonde hair, innocent (relatively) blue eyes and she takes her pom-poms to bed every night.  Woods is a very smart performer, and milks it for all it’s worth.  Hey, it worked for Marilyn.

If you’ve been around long enough to remember Mamie Eisenhower, you’ll know costumer Genny Cohn stole that hat from the Smithsonian.  Tanner Hanson pushes the photons and nobody does it better.

“Broadway Takes On Politics” plays October 6 and 7 at 7:30 p.m.; October 8 at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. and The Firehouse couldn’t be a more perfect venue.  They are very close to sold out in this small house, so get your tickets at Brown Paper Tickets or Village Books.  If you wait until you get to the door, you’ll be sorrier than when you voted for Ralph Nader.

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