Happy Birthday, Mr. President!: A Review
At a time of great political uncertainty, in the shadow of an unprecedented presidential impeachment inquiry, in the wake of a two-party system wrenching the electorate this way and that with unceasingly maddening frequency, in the midst of all this occurring within our own borders and threating the stability and integrity of all the worlds stages, one woman, and one woman alone, has taken a stand to remind us of what has been, and what continues to be, both strangely right and wrong with all the occupants of the White House. This leader has bravely decided to use her talent and education for the entertainment benefit of we the people. No. It’s not Nancy Pelosi.
This subject savvy, political satirist, and stellar songstress comes in the form of a Marilyn Monroe look-a-like by the name of Ellie MacPherson and she has created a cabaret act that showcases her self-professed obsessive love of the Presidents of these here United States. This vehicle allows her to use her BA in English and History from Rutgers University and her MFA in Acting from the New School for Drama to showcase her book smarts and her exceedingly well-honed talents as a superior singer, spot on impersonator, and jovial educator. This time her classroom is Manhattan’s newly minted cabaret hot spot The Green Room 42. MacPherson can now be added to the ever increasing and ever impressive list of talented performers to pass through its considerable doors.
MacPherson enters escorted by her sunglasses wearing Secret Service Band which consists of Luis Jaccome, Nick Ujhazy, Dominic LaMorte and musical director Michael Repper. This is quite the talented crew since her music choices range from current and classic Broadway showtunes to pop, rock, country, and rap. For the next ninety minutes MacPherson reviews every president from George Washington to the current occupant of the People’s House. Every one of the forty-four men who have served in the great office gets a mention, a historical tidbit or more, and some of the lucky ones get a musical number just for them.
This is an evening designed to entertain and inform while being a whole lot of fun in between. This is achieved principally because MacPherson is a delightfully gifted and alluring guide. Her genuine love of subject is contagious and even her clear deviations from scripted moments end in laughs because she is thoroughly enjoying herself. That’s addictive too. She’s also not afraid to share the stage with obvious friends and songmates. Kayla Berghoff’s turn as Monica Lewinsky singing “Careless Whisper” and Jake McCready as Dick Cheney in a duet along with MacPherson both belting out “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” are two trippy treats.
Happy Birthday Mr. President! is not a dull history lesson in any way manner shape or form. It’s an exhilarating raucous personal manifesto on leadership both good and bad. It’s genuinely hilarious, naughty at times, surprisingly touching in the end, and it’s all brought to life by the effervescent personality and considerable skills of its creator and star Ellie MacPherson.
Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), where he serves on both the Membership and Diversity & Inclusion Committees. He is also a voting member of The Drama Desk. Edward welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.
From an original post on Theater Pizazz.