Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Red, White & Bling! Election Night 2008 with The Billionaire Follies
Last week while the masses were breathing a collective sigh of relief at the symbolic end to the most disastrous presidency in U.S. history, I was pondering the one downside of the conclusion to W’s reign. No more Billionaires for Bush, the hilariously high-living, street theater troupe (with 90 national chapters) who “armed with tuxedos, evening gowns, hard facts and a humorous spin” have been putting a satirical shiner on corporate interests at political rallies throughout the country for years. No more tiara-wearing women dripping in jewels and top hat clad men (not to mention the nattily attired kids) bearing “Free The Enron 7” and “We’re All In This Together (sort of)” signs outside the conventions. (Though one member did lament to me that it’s impossible to get arrested in a tuxedo.) The Bills, rightly fearing that Obama would not be good for this minority’s rights, had decided to call it quits.
But of course, if the Billionaires had to bail out it would be with a bang, thus “Red, White & Bling! Election Night 2008 with The Billionaire Follies” was a nouveau riche cabaret extravaganza emceed by Dave Bennett as George W. Bush (“Gonna find that Dow Jones, follow him to his Wall Street cave – and smoke ‘em out!”), performing everything from his “just released” hip-hop number (“Don’t vote” urged whispering backup voices) to a blues tune with Dave Case’s Karl Rove (sample lyric, “Hope Cheney doesn’t shoot me ‘cause I’m a lame duck”). Then there was the terrific Tina Fey-inspired Yvonne Willrich-Teague as Sarah Palin singing “Suddenly Sarah” and standing behind Robbie Edmondson’s Levi Johnson – rifle in her hand – as he tremblingly disavowed his MySpace page and declared his love for her daughter Bristol played by Amanda Kay Schill. (The pregnant Palin teen later got into a wrestling match with Melody Bates’ equally pregnant Jenna Bush.) Toss in the 2008 U.S. National Tango Champions Gayle Madeira and Lexa Rosean doing an Obama-Palin slapstick dance worthy of Mack Sennett, the Lobbyists for McCain harmonizing an ode to banking (“No credit? No money? How ‘bout a mortgage? Sure!”), and the Raging Grannies (who’ve been holding a vigil every Wednesday in Times Square since the Iraq war began) singing “Grandmama for Obama,” and you’ve got yourself the best election party stock options can buy.
Yet the highlight for me wasn’t Constance Swindling’s laugh-till-you-can’t-breathe rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” (with the lyrics “Just a Navy boy/Married money post-Hanoi/Has eight mansions he just don’t know where”) nor the “big oil,” grand finale Fosse number “All That Gas” (“Drill baby drill!”), which concluded with the MILF governor stripping down to a bathing suit and Miss Alaska sash while the Billionaire chorus mimed wildlife and Ivy League-Legacy called, “Oh, look, it’s moose!” to the rifle-toting Palin. No, what thrilled me most was when Bennett’s Bush directed the performers into the audience at the very end (“Billionaires, take a seat in the house – or the Senate!”) for a video juxtaposing stills of the troupe with their dubious inspiration’s strangest moments, concluding with a picture of W and “Dope” changing to one of Obama’s face and “Hope.” As “This land is my land/ This land is my land/ From Catalina to the Cayman Islands” became the real thing it became equally apparent that the Bills’ constant refusal to ever stop laughing in the face of despair is the very definition of hope. And exactly the change we need.
Click here to see the Bills in action. Review also available at Theater Online. Mission accomplished.