(Full Disclosure – Complimentary tickets and other media materials were provided for me to attend this show and write this blog post. All photos are copyright Second City, and are used with permission. So thanks to Second City for the opportunity to attend an opening night performance)
I have to admit, I love political satire, especially in light of having recently read David Bianculli’s book about the Smothers Brothers. (About which I've formally blogged about here) So when I was invited to attend the premiere of Second City’s new review, Rush Limbaugh – The Musical, I eagerly cleared my schedule and prepared, even so far as to invite a fellow Chicago blogger to accompany me. At the very least, I was looking forward to an evening of laughter and enjoyment.
But all in all, Rush Limbaugh – The Musical! is a rather mixed bag, with sharply biting commentary mixed in with some moments that lack a satirical spark.
My personal favorite highlight of the revue was Karla Beard as Shasta, Limbaugh’s right hand woman/Greek chorus/narrator. She not only was able to keep the energy level of the revue high, Ms. Beard also performed several show stopping numbers. In short – the woman has one powerful voice, giving the songs a greater lyrical and satirical weight. The rest of the troupe – Mark Sutton (as Mr. Limbaugh), Bumper Carroll, Cayne Collier, Colleen Murray, and Kevin Sciretta- performs admirably, bringing a great energy to the proceedings.
Some of the highlights from the show include a tuneful yet profanity-laden ditty describing the major problem with the Democratic Party. (Although, in fairness, 80% of the jokes are at the Republican Party’s expense). Another personal highlight was a calypso-influenced love song to Oxycontin. My personal favorite (which my fellow blogger disliked) was the portrayal of Rumsfeld and Rove as an Abbott and Costello-style comedy duo.) A medley of Limbaugh’s “greatest hits” – things he actually said – provided a solid moment of using Limbaugh’s own words against him.
However, there were some moments which simply seemed to have the audiences gasping in astonishment rather than rollicking in laughter. It is a thin line – we are dealing with a person (and group) who seem to have no sense of shame, and sometimes, one does not know the lines of propriety until they cross them. I believe that anything can be joked about, provided the comedian is clever enough to find a riff. (See: Carlin, George). However, a scene involving jokes around September 11th felt awkward, as if it had been “too soon” after the event. Plus, a moment where Rush calls our president “Halfrican American” – although potentially funny – sank like a stone.
A few other aspects of the show also seemed a little awkward. For example, a bit involving Barney Frank (Kevin Sciretta) making a sexual innuendo was funny once…but after the fifth time, didn’t seem to work well. In addition, as the revue approached the end, there seemed to be moments where it seemed to end…but it kept going. And although the “third act” (taking place in Rush’s future) may have been good for Rush’s arc…it just seemed a little too much. Granted, this was an opening night show, meaning that some kinks may be worked out as the revue progresses.
So my take on Rush Limbaugh – the Musical: definitely not as strong as Studs Terkel’s Not Working, but an overall pleasurable experience. Definitely worth checking out with a group of friends…but expect some moments that may not satisfy. If for nothing else, see it for Ms. Beard’s performance.