[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of 44 – THE unOFFICIAL, unSANCTIONED OBAMA MUSICAL presented by Eli Bauman, Monica Saunders-Weinberg, MB Artists, and Michael Donovan with music, lyrics and book by Eli Bauman, additional songs co-written with Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, directed by Eli Bauman, and running through November 18 at The Bourbon Room Hollywood.
Holy moly is this musical good!! And when I say good I mean it absolutely blew me away. Gorgeous songs, beautifully sung. Hilarious performances, brilliant characterizations of your favorite and not-so-favorite politicians, and all told from the often wonky perspective of America’s best grandpa…Joe Biden.
I often marvel at how someone comes up with a way to tell a story, especially one we are all so familiar with like Barack Obama’s presidency. The utter genius of writer/director Eli Bauman constructed this musical around Obama’s ascendance to his first term of presidency and the triumph of his second. But the way he uses all these disparate characters and songs and ridiculous and fantastically choreographed numbers to reflect the drama, the jealousy and the total panic of the GOP at having a brilliant democrat, let alone a Black president in the White House…it’s truly sublime.
This is a long play and it’s completely packed with song after fantastic song, liberally sprinkled, pun intended, with grandpa Biden’s spaced-out recollections cleverly taking us from moment to pivotal moment. Honestly, it took me right back to the moment of watching breathlessly while the results came in. That feeling of hope and joy and pride when he won. Like everything would finally be alright and a new beginning was upon us all. Of course, the underworld of the political theatre took this triumph as a challenge and tried to scupper everything he intended to achieve and they managed to do some damage and that does give great evil songs and some fabulous villains for the show. Even though some of them are still on the scene, history will tarnish them with the brush of truth, and we were still gifted enough time with the possibility of a better world that it changed us all. We should remember that, even as the haters hated and we ended up with he who shall be nameless…
But there is thankfully far more light in this show than darkness and the voices of Summer Nicole as The People, T.J. Wilkins as Obama and the glorious Shanice as Michelle quite literally brought me and the entire audience to our feet more times than I can remember! Then there’s the spectacle of Sarah Palin in her sequinned knickers pole dancing, Cruz, Boehner and McConnell rapping Green Eggs and Ham and the incredible Hillary Clinton with her “it was my turn” moment. Just phenomenal…every single performance.
44 – THE unOFFICIAL, unSANCTIONED OBAMA MUSICAL is a triumph in hope and a perfectly executed piece of musical theatre. We are transported back to those inspirational years with a White House graced with greatness and it feels soooo good.
Grandpa Biden is doing us proud, at least as much as he can, but Barrack and Michelle are sorely missed and I for one am refueled by this brilliant homage to their time in office and the chance to see their enemies so brilliantly portrayed by a group of exceptional actors.
There is so much darkness and heartbreak in our world right now. We need beautiful voices and the warmth of stories like this to remind us that great things are possible and can happen when we least expect it.
I highly recommend that you buy your tickets, sit down and have a couple of cocktails and some delicious food at the iconic Bourbon Room, and enjoy this incredible musical performed by a wonderful band that raises the roof and actors’ voices that send it soaring with a magical message of love and hope against all odds….and the GOP.
How strange that this story of the Obamas feels almost like a fairytale now. But I’ll take it! I hear that the incredible songs sung by this truly Broadway-level cast will be available in an EP soon! I can only hope that somewhere in the shadows of the Bourbon Room sits the Obamas in disguise, I think they would absolutely love this show!!
Runs through November 18.
6356 Hollywood Blvd, 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Kevin Bailey as John Boehner, Larry Cedar as Mitch McConnell, Chad Doreck as Joe Biden, Kelley Dorney as Hillary Clinton, Summer Nicole Greer as Voice of the People, Jane Papageorge as Sarah Palin, Dino Shorté as Herman Cain, Jeff Sumner as Lindsay Graham, and Michael Uribes as Ted Cruz. Understudies for 44 include Marqell Edward Clayton as Barack Obama and Herman Cain, Scott Kruse as Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.
The Band that keeps 44’s non-stop rhythmic R&B sounds and hard-hitting beats going is Los Angeles-based House of Vibe helmed by music director, music co-producer, and keyboardist, Anthony “Brew” Brewster. The band, who has worked with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Fishbone, Chali-2na, Citizen Cope, De La Soul, and The Untouchables to name a few, features Phillip “Fish” Fisher (drums); Corey Cofield (bass); Kris Hawkins and Conrad Bauer (guitar) and Greg Raymond (keyboard).
44’s hip-hop infused choreography was created by James Alsop. and an EP of the impressive songs from 44 is in the works.