Lies Musical Theatre Told Me: For God’s Sake John Sit Down!

Welcome back to Lies Musical Theatre Told Me! This is one that I think about frequently this time of year.

With the exception of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson The Continental Congress was a bunch of indecisive idiots (and they were ALL super horny)

The culprit here is of course the amazing 1776.

We're waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born...

We’re waiting for the chirp, chirp, chirp, of an eaglet being born…

If you aren’t familiar, 1776 chronicles the week leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It’s insightful, funny, brilliant and, being that it’s a musical about the founding fathers, totally dorky.

I think it can go without saying that I love 1776. I love it because I love musicals, and I love American history, and I really love The Declaration of Independence. In my early American Lit course in college we read both the Declaration and the Constitution and analyzed them as non fiction literature and it was one of the best experiences of analysis I’ve ever had.

Anyway, my love affair with 1776 began when I was about twelve. Our local high school put on a production of the show, starring now almost famous Brad Weinstock as John Adams.

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we're all very proud

Brad, as Frankie Valli in the national tour of Jersey Boys, we’re all very proud

I’m pretty sure that Brad was great, but I don’t really remember because my memories of that production are clouded by my friend Joe’s older brother Sean playing Richard Henry Lee. To be fair, “The Lees of Old Virginia,” is a big show stealing number, but Sean was consistently stealing shows from the other kids. The next year he stole Into The Woods from the boy playing The Baker, but that’s a different story.

I was transfixed by this odd little show, which only had a few songs and no women. Well, 2 women. I loved it in fact. I wanted to go right out to Sam Goody or Tower Records and buy the OBC Recording. I didn’t, but that’s only because my mom owned it on vinyl. Because I wasn’t yet a full blown theatre geek, I didn’t quite understand how cool it was that my mother owned a vinyl copy of the 1776 OBC Recording. I did understand how cool it was that William Daniels was the original John Adams.

That's young Mr. Feeney. That's why they went to John Adams High School. It's a joke. Get it?

That’s young Mr. Feeney. That’s why Corey and Co. went to John Adams High School. It’s a joke. Get it?

I also may be using the word “cool” incorrectly here. But I listened to the record over and over again. The reason that my mother owned this record was simple.

To celebrate the bicentenial in 1976, the parish my mom grew up in put on a production of 1776. My grandfather played Thomas Jefferson. Now, there’s a number, “But Mr. Adams,” that is basically John Adams trying to convince various members of the committee of five to write the Declaration of Independence. When he goes to Jefferson, who of course ends up writing it, (if you don’t know this go find your middle school social studies teacher and punch them in the face.) Jefferson simply says “Mr. Adams, leave me alone.” Here’s the thing though, the “alone” is on a high G and the entire phrase is belted. It’s incredibly difficult. So, when my Grampy would practice the song, while his five young children tried to sleep. He would reach that moment, this beautiful dramatic vocal fanfare and miss the note. Now messing up a note is not a big deal in rehearsal but can be quite frustrating. To vent said frustration, Grampy would shout, “God damnit Irene! (My grandmother) I can’t hit that note!” This is a little bit of family lore that my mother spins frequently and always giggles her way through it.

Anyway, this is all a prelude, because 1776, like so many other shows that I love is a big fat liar.

Lie #1, of course is that the congress was super lazy and petty. Except John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The first half of the show is Adams imposing his will on the congress about Independence. He is labeled as “obnoxious and disliked” and no one agrees with him. But no one else even wants to talk about independence. Not John Hancock, no one, except Ben Franklin, and Richard Henry Lee, sort of. Obviously Adams wins and then America becomes a thing.

Here’s the main reason that 1776 decides that the reason the Declaration of Independence almost didn’t happen is because Thomas Jefferson wanted to go home and have sex with his wife.

This is an actual plot point. Thomas Jefferson is asking John Adams to leave him alone, so that he can go home and boink Martha Jefferson. This is resolved when Adams and Franklin bring Martha to Philadelphia, somehow, and then she and Tom have sex in the middle of the day and it’s very scandalous. This also leads to one of the best character songs in the history of theatre, “He Plays The Violin.” It also leads to a really boring duet between John and Abigail Adams where they sing about how they miss having sex.

That’s the only reason there are even women in the show at all. That’s why you don’t see many amateur productions of it anymore. No girl parts.

Katie and I fight about it yearly, because I want to put it on with our company Tom Foolery Theatre so badly it makes my head hurt, and we can’t, because Katie refuses to allow gender blind casting. (She is, by the way mostly right, and I mostly start these fights after a few drinks.) However, if you’re in Allendale, New Jersey tonight and you see a dark blond haired girl and a red haired girl marching drunkenly through the streets shouting, “SOMEONE GO AND OPEN UP A WINDOW!” “WELL FOR GOD’S SAKE JOHN SIT DOWN!” at the top of their lungs, that’s me and Katie.

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!


My Favorite Superhero

I’m going to talk to you a little bit about my favorite superhero. Believe it or not, it isn’t who you think.

This is, surprisingly, the wrong answer

My favorite superhero is a real live dude. Although he’s less of a dude and more completely the man. My favorite superhero is Cory Booker.

If you don’t know who Cory Booker is, you clearly do not live in the tri state area. Allow me to explain.

Cory Booker was elected to be Mayor of The City of Newark in 2006, and set out to change and save the city. In that time, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center became a cultural powerhouse and The Prudential Center, a new arena for The New Jersey Devils was built. He’s opened schools, made infrastructure more accessible to the people who need it. (If you tweet at him about potholes or noise complaints, he fixes them.)

These are not the things that make him a superhero, although they are awesome. What makes him a superhero, is that time he ran in to a burning building to save a woman.

Yes, that’s right, and he described it as “being neighborly.” Also Mark Zuckerberg gave him a bunch of money because “he seemed like a cool guy.”

Yup. And he doesn’t even need a Cape, SUCK IT KENT!

Corey Booker is my favorite superhero. He’s also the only democrat I would ever vote for, and for once my home state (and current residence) is actually the model of bi-partisan government. Booker and Governor Chris Christie are not only friendly, but work together, despite their differing ideologies to make sure that Newark and The State are thriving.

Christie can be Jimmy Olsen

Political Fangirling

I try not to spend too much time dealing with politics. I don’t really know enough about current issues to weigh in a lot of the time. But I am fascinated by the American political process and I love this country. But for the most part what I know about politics comes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Aaron Sorkin (11 days until The Newsroom!) 

I do make certain exceptions, and one of them, is Miss Meghan McCain. She is as Katie calls it, “One of my weirder girl crushes.” (Girl Crush: a non sexual crush on a female celebrity who you think you should be best friends with) But in reality it’s not that weird.

I’m a *stage whisper* republican. I whisper it because it’s kind of a dirty word around a lot of people I know. I’m a theatre geek, with a women’s studies degree, who lives in one of the most liberal metropolitan areas in the country, in a staunchly blue state, with deep emotional ties to the gay community.

Yeah, not exactly screaming elephant with those characteristics. But that’s one of the reasons that I love Meghan. I started reading her blog The McCain Blogette while she was following her father’s presidential campaign in 2008. I’ve been a John McCain fan since I was twelve. You know those social studies projects where you have to do profiles on all of the candidates? Even at twelve, doing one of those profiles, everything about him made sense to me. His war record, the way he stuck to his guns, his big whacky cool family. (I didn’t know who Meghan was specifically, but I remember thinking that Cindy was pretty and I thought it was awesome that they adopted a baby girl.)

It didn’t hurt things that I grew up in a true red republican household. My parents despised Bill Clinton, not because he is sleaze bag number 1, although he is, but because he advocated a liberal tax policy and enacted don’t ask don’t tell (which is one of the greatest attacks on personal freedom in the history of this country!).

Anyway, back to Meghan, after reading her blog for a while and then following her twitter, I found myself stunned. After the 2008 election I was horribly disillusioned with the GOP and the republican party. I had watched a man I’d admired for most of my life run a campaign that I could barely get behind. I watched a woman who terrified me rise to super stardom saying things that I patently disagreed with. That being said, I voted for them anyway, because President Obama’s fiscal policy really scared me (still does). But even among my young republican friends, I was feeling like the moderate voice was being shut out.

Then came Meghan McCain. She was sassy and funny, and spoke her mind and had so many of the same opinions that I did, that I started spouting off about her to everyone. I read her book Dirty, Sexy Politics about six times. And when she announced what her new book was going to be, a roadtrip memoir written with Michael Ian Black about trying to find common ground given their different political opinions and backgrounds (to be fair everyone has a different political background than Meghan McCain.) I thought it sounded like the greatest thing ever.

America You Sexy Bitch, isn’t the greatest book ever. I’ve even read better road memoirs. But I was so giddy over the past twenty four hours, reading fun, cool moderate political commentary and conversation (Black is a moderate democrat and one of my favorite comedians of all time). I was grateful for every page, every awkward exchange and every minute.

People can fangirl over a lot of things. To me Meghan McCain’s sheer enthusiasm about politics in general and conservative politics in particular qualifies as fangirling. And my girl crush on her definitely qualifies. And the way I squee-ed over the book being delivered to my kindle yesterday morning, well, that speaks for itself.