“Is everybody angry?! Is everybody motivated?!” Stephen Hanks opens his series’ fourth iteration (in excess of $6000 raised so far) as tradition dictates, with a theme song written for it by Michael Roberts (see below). Though what each candidate receives is nominal, the producer points out that in order to avoid rampant corruption, some campaigns are wholly based on small donations, that the shows are cathartic and energizing, and that championing great performers is an added benefit. Vocalists and Musical Directors alike donate their talents.
Tonight’s presentation is the first consisting entirely of men, each of whom it should be noted, without request, chose a woman to endorse. Candidates were researched, selections often based on personal sympathies and/or home states; endorsements articulate and inspiring.
Rob Davis: “I’m performing on behalf of current, Kansas State Senator (since 2005) and now candidate for Governor of Kansas, Laura Kelly. Laura has tremendous insight to the inner workings of the Kansas state government and would be a tremendous upgrade. She has a tough opponent in the current Secretary of State, and a Trump favorite for his fiercely, anti-immigration stance, Kris Kobach, who needed Trump’s help and won the Republican nomination by the thinnest of margins. My slogan for this battle is…”Koback Must Go Back!!!”
Davis opens with Willie Nelson’s “Still Not Dead” partially parodied by the artist himself. His full, sandpapery voice and committed delivery adds to impact. “You’re the One,” written by Davis, follows. Look to yourself/Not to the world…You gotta be yourself…Reminder not to be a sheep (or in today’s politics, a lemming) is needed at a time where people are too easily swayed by misinformation, geographic tradition, and lack of larger than local awareness. Ian Herman plays with authority and enthusiasm.
Bruce Clough: “America is desperate for more strong women in politics. The guys have HAD their shot! MJ Hegar, the Democrat running for Congress in Texas’ District 31, more than qualifies. She kicked through many doors on her way to becoming a combat helicopter pilot, was shot down sustaining career-ending injuries, and earned a Purple Heart. Barred from her next career choice in the Army because of gender, Hegar sued the Pentagon, and won. She lobbied members of Congress about the issue to no avail, then decided to run for office.”
Clough begins with “Be Prepared” (Elton John/Tim Rice from The Lion King): It’s clear from your vacant expressions/The lights are not all on upstairs/But we’re talking kings and successions/ Even you can’t be caught unawares…( I’m impressed by the performers’ spot-on and widely sourced selections.) The artist is darkly comic and clearly an actor. His John Fogarty-like, baritone growl arrives resonant and rife with warning.
In Oscar Brown’s “The Snake” the reptile convinces a woman to take him in out of the cold, then fatally bites her. “Oh shut up, silly woman,”/said the reptile with a grin/”You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.” The elaborate tango is colorfully manifest by seductive stroking of said snake and hissssss. Apparently when “our” President quoted the song at a rally, Brown’s daughters took to the radio with “Trump is the very embodiment of the snake our father wrote about.” Clough is a find!
Jeff Macauley: “I’m representing Mary Gay Scanlon, Pennsylvania U. S. Congress Candidate running to represent the newly redrawn District 5, which includes my hometown of Swarthmore, PA. Ms. Scanlon is especially strong on education, having been the President of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board where I attended public school. She’s a strong believer in equal access to education for all and will keep an eye on and be a worthy adversary to Betsy DeVos and Trump in their attempts to destroy public education.”
Macauley takes aim with a clever, satirical, self-authored version of Bobby Troup’s “Girl Talk:” …that orange garbage pail./The wife, the sons, the daughter they can all go to straight to jail./The Constitution is a thing that jerk just doesn’t know./It’s an essential thing,/This is not a reality TV show./So much at stake/Too much to take/News that’s not fake/ We need real Girl Talk…Performance is expansive, solid. Next, also parodied, is Troup’s “Walking Shoes.” Get out your voting shoes, he sings with ardor.
One of Stephen Hanks’ most dedicated concerns is that of the rise of poverty and homelessness. Statistics shared are truly frightening. The producer’s vocal offering is “Homeless Brother,” a number one would never attribute to Don McLean (unless you’d seen one of Hanks’ tribute shows). The story-song is earnestly performed, ably served. It paints a picture of that which few face and about which fewer are proactive.
Mark Nadler: “I chose to raise money for Abby Finkenauer to become an Iowa representative for one very simple reason: I’m from Iowa, a state with an enormous number of universities. Despite being a state whose main industry is farming, there are a lot of highly educated, forward thinking people there. Iowa legalized Gay Marriage before New York did! It’s time that THAT part of the Iowa population is represented in the U.S. Congress. I truly believe Abby Finkenauer is the person to do it.”
Larry Kirchner’s “Iowa,” written about Nadler’s own difficult childhood there, is as trenchant a satire focusing on discrimination as you’ve heard outside Weimar Kabaret. Aided and abetted by a biting, unrestrained performance, the song describes increase in that despicable attitude on uncountable fronts. “It’s horrible but true, we’re used to horrible things being true these days,” he dryly comments.
The artist’s dream includes successively taking back the House and Senate then impeaching and ousting both Trump and Pence. “Ladies and gentlemen, President Nancy Pelosi!”A halting “God Bless America” (Irving Berlin) is stage whispered like a prayer. The room breathes as one.
Brian Charles Rooney
Brian Charles Rooney: “Mary Barzee Flores is running to represent Florida’s 25th Congressional district. After serving 8 years on the Circuit Court, she was nominated by President Barack Obama for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court, but prevented from serving by Senator Marco Rubio because of donating to the ACLU and EMILY’s List. Firsthand experience made Mary even more committed to public service. She’s qualified, fair, intelligent, hard working, honest, a proponent of gun regulation, an opponent of voter suppression, and remains a practical progressive.”
Rooney’s version of “Sister Suffragette” makes one want to get up and march: Cast off the shackles of yesterday!/Shoulder to shoulder into the fray!… (Richard M. Sherman/Robert B. Sherman) Easily sliding from robust baritone to seamless tenor the musical theater actor stirs infectious ardor.
“Are you aware that technically, the Speaker of the House doesn’t have to be a sitting Congressperson? Think about that,” he says arching a brow. After the 2016 election, Rooney admits to feeling physical fear for the first time in his life. He’d avidly worked two campaigns for Mrs. Clinton. “I went home and removed everything I’d posted about her on the internet because I thought they might come for me…” Big Brother is watching. Ouch.
In the 60s and 70s protest was endemic. “Fortunate Son” (Credence Clearwater Revival) declares: It ain’t me, it ain’t me/ I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no/It ain’t me, it ain’t me/I ain’t no fortunate one…The song hits hard, inflection and phrasing exploding like cherry bombs. Ian Herman creates such effusive, multi-layered piano accompaniment, it’s easy to imagine four hands rather than two.
Adam Shapiro: “I’m supporting Gina Ortiz Jones who represents Texas district 23 which includes much of the border between Texas and Mexico. We need someone who will look out for the interests and safety of people of Hispanic heritage. Ortiz-Jones is not only a woman of Ilokano decent, but also an out gay woman who would be a true presence in government. With so many liberties in question again, LGBT people realize we should not have to ask for inherent rights from a government comprised almost entirely of heterosexuals. We have to have an equal voice in the bodies that make the laws and policies.”
I had never met/A Republican/’Til I went to college/The mother of a classmate said she hated Bella Abzug … (William Finn “Republicans”) begins actor/singer Adam Shapiro as if from his own experience. “I was scared to sing that song prior to 2010. NOT anymore,” the performer states unequivocally. “Should it matter if someone’s gay,” he adds, “No- but it does. The LGBT community became complacent under Obama assuming changes would continue. They did not. There’s an insurgence of LGBT candidates…”
Shapiro closes the evening with Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s tandem “A Piece of Sky”/“No Matter What Happens” from Yentl. I’ve never heard the intoxicating song performed by a man and frankly feel lucky Shapiro is the first. Lyric emerges, not familiarly loud as if Heaven is deaf, but quietly and with such heartfelt expression it brings tears to my eyes. This is determination, hope-against-hope-and-the-odds spirit we now so desperately need. Bravo.
Photos by Steve Friedman
Opening: Ian Herman, Bruce Clough, Jeff Macauley, Brian Charles Rooney, Adam Shapiro, Rob Davis, Mark Nadler- in front-Stephen Hanks
Cabaret Campaigns: Ride the Blue Wave IV
Stephen Hanks, Rob Davis, Bruce Clough, Jeff McCauley, Mark Nadler, Adam Shapiro, Brian Charles Rooney
Ian Herman- Music Director/Piano
September 13, 2018
Don’t Tell Mama
343 West 46 Street
NEXT SHOW-Saturday October 13- 7pm Don’t Tell Mama
Natalie Douglas, Kim Grogg, Billie Roe, Anne Hughes, Lane Bradbury, Blair Alexis Brown Musical Director- Michael Roberts
Stephen Hanks, who for almost eight years has been involved in practically every aspect of cabaret, was a political science major in college and accepted into the National Political Science Honor Society. Politically passionate since childhood and a frequent activist, his depression and disgust with what’s happening in this country began, he tells me, as early as the announcement of Donald Trump’s candidacy. Hanks feared most the rise of white supremacism, second only to the undermining of voting rights.
From my article about the series in Cabaret Scenes
Hanks decided to put his expertise where his principles are and produce this series of shows.The cause is just, the talent excellent, the evening inspiring and money goes where it should.
The Theme Song of the Series written especially for it Music & Lyrics by Michael Roberts: “The Great Blue Wave”
Come and join/ The great Blue wave,/ Something less bitter,/ Less often on Twitter,/ Something that’s based on facts/It sweeps you up,/ This great blue wave,/ More civilizing,/ Less womanizing,/ Someone who knows how to act./A simple reminder, We used to be kinder,/ And not so easily afraid…