Streaming into your living rooms just as early voting wraps up is the latest rendition of Political Idol, a musical review written by Robert Yarnall and Marc Emory and staged online for 2020 by Michael Goldfried. Hosted by a suspicious Russian accented “Simon Cowell,” the conceit of the show within a show is that the candidates are competing for your votes by singing 16 parodies of pop and show songs. The opening number to the tune of “I Hope I Get It” from “A Chorus Line” and featuring the cast dressed as many of the democratic candidates illustrates the cleverness of the liberally-bent lyrics. The contest concept is dropped early on in the script and it’s hard to gauge whether there remains an appetite for revisiting the earlier days of this taut election. But certainly the performers deliver strong vocals and amusing impressions.
For those who can remember the 1970s, the humor is reminiscent of the musical interludes from Laugh-In, with often just a line or two from each entry performed with a punch. The strongest numbers are presented a third of the way through the 42 minute runtime with Mary Trump’s “Everything Comes From Neurosis” (based on “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from “Gypsy”), “Season of Trump” (set to the splendid “Seasons of Love” from Jonathan Larson’s “Rent”) and a memorable medley that will ensure you never forget how to pronounce the Democratic VP candidate’s first name delivering the biggest laughs. The creative team has chosen to pre-record each performer remotely. Having witnessed a fair amount of squishy green screen this season, I appreciated having Bruno-Pierre Houle’s virtual production design added in post so that the effects enhance rather than distract from images of the actors. Sara Jean Tosetti contributes clever costume designs that also add value to the impersonations.
With music direction by Anessa Marie, each actor was recorded separately against a monochrome back drop. Though I wish the lip synch was more consistently *synched*, the sound quality and vocals are high. Enga Davis has an edge having been given the shining characters of Oprah, Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris to portray. She gives each a clear and powerful voice, as you’d expect. Lara Buck Antolik is more exaggerated as Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi. Her Melania Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle mug far more than they sing, though her body language has sparkle. Writer Yarnall gets into the act with a hilariously naughty Mike Pence and subtle Mayor Pete among others. That Scott Foster’s orange-tinged Trump falls flat is not a reflection on his talent. As feedback on the newest season of SNL illustrates, there is Trump Impression Fatigue throughout our land caused on one side by a feeling that the President is the one true American voice in politics and on the other by a sense of dread that democracy might never recover from his term in office. Foster’s Biden fairs a little better, though the Democratic candidate plays a more muted role. Joe DiSalle rounds out the cast with a creepy Bill Barr and creepier Mitch McConnell.
As good natured as it is, Political Idol 2020 has an unfortunate timing issue. This election has become too serious to be treated as a laughing matter. However, if this jingly musical inspires even one more person to vote, it will have served its purpose well. It is available online for $20.20 at https://www.politicalidollive.com until November 4.