REVIEW: Rod Blagojevich Superstar (2nd City at Metropolis)

           

Blago spoof still funny, if more painful

 

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The Second City presents
 
Rod Blagojevich Superstar
 
Book by Ed Furman, songs by T.J. Shanoff
Directed by Matt Hovde
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights (map)
Through Sept. 18  | 
Tickets: $28.50–$33.50  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

The jury’s still out on the Rod Blagojevich trial, but the verdict on Rod Blagojevich Superstar is "guilty."

No one yukking it up it in the audience at The Second City’s remount of their clever 2009 hit, now at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, could have had any doubt that the whole silly story of our big-haired, big headed, impeached governor is all too painfully true.

Blago4 Blago and Company are much funnier than our previous crooked gubernatorial band, poor old George Ryan and his Inept GOP Grafters, who barely caught any comedy coverage at all, but their antics have been so over the top that it takes some doing to turn them into bigger buffoons than they made themselves.

The mini-musical doesn’t provide any answers to important questions like, "How come we keep electing such losers?" but confines itself to chronicling the career of the not-too-bright, Serbian-American "scrapper" from the Northwest Side who gets a party-school law degree, meets and marries the foul-mouthed daughter of a powerful Chicago alderman and rides the well-greased Illinois machine all the way to the top.

Joey Bland — in a remarkable wig — and Lori McClain ably reprise their roles as those already larger-than-life characters, Rod and Patti Blagojevich, supported by Dunbar Dicks doubling as Patti’s now-estranged dad, Ald. Dick Mell (D-33rd), and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; Lauren Dowden as Ill. Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and John Hildreth in a hilariously restrained take on now-Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

Even as parodies go, this is no great musical. The best song is the opening nod to "Jesus Christ Superstar," which asks, "Are you as nuts as we think you are?" Other numbers take off on tunes from such musicals as "Godspell," "Pippin" and "The Wiz," but the music just supports the japes. None of the cast are notable singers, but they belt out the lampooning lyrics clearly enough for comedy’s sake. "Pay to Play" might just as well be the official state song.

Laughable as it is to those who’ve been following along, you do need some state-of-Illinois savvy to get all the jokes. If the name "Tony Rezko" means nothing to you, you might have to do some homework before the show. On the other hand, if you’re hep to the whole Blago megillah, you’ve heard a lot of these jokes before. They’re still funny, but I can’t help but think that this revival is a bit like beating a dead donkey.

 

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When "Superstar" premiered last year, Blagojevich himself appeared onstage to open the show. There’s just no way they can top that.

The play has not been changed to reflect any current events, so the cast has added on some post-show improv games in which the audience can ask "Rod" questions and suggest additional "crimes" he might have committed (as if 24 counts weren’t enough!). Like all such shticks, it’s only as good as the audience’s idea, which on opening night wasn’t very. Even with the extras, it’s all over in about an hour and a quarter. So much for our first Democratic governor in 30 years. You have to laugh. Or cry.

      
     
Rating: ★★★
    
    

Note: As educational as this might be for the kids, the language is extremely uncensored.

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‘Rod Blagojevich Superstar’ moving to Chicago Shakespeare

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Following a sold out run at Second City e.t.c., the popular comedy review “Rod Blagojevich Superstarwill be playing a limited engagement Chicago Shakes on Navy Pier.  The Navy Pier version has been updated with new sketches and music to include recent Blago happenings, such as his 6-figure book deal and Roland Burris’ son (and, as the Blago drama proceeds, so will Second City’s improv show!).  After each performance, the famed improv theatre troupe will improvise a 20-minute political comedy set based on audience suggestions.

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Superstar has book by Ed Furman, music and lyrics by T.J. Shanoff and direction by Matt Hovde. The cast includes Joey Bland as Rod Blagojvich, Mike Bradecich as Richard Mell/Pat Fitzgerald, Lauren Dowden as Lisa Madigan, Lori McClain as Patti Blagojevich and Sam Richardson as Senator Roland Burris.

According to Second City notes,

“Politics and parody take center stage Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare with the Second City’s rollicking musical parody of the rise and fall of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich. A faux tribute to the man who compares himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela, Rod Blagojevich Superstar presents the story of the former governor in the style of a ’70s rock musical. Jesus and Mary Magdalene have been replaced by Rod and Patti Blagojevich, with appearances by Alderman Dick Mell, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Senator Roland Burris. The jury is still out on Blagojevich, but of the five other Illinois governors who have been charged with crimes, three have done time.”

More info at ChicagoShakes.com.

Rave reviews after the fold.

See video preview of the show here.

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Chicago Theater tidbits: Goodman’s partnership, Auditorium Theatre’s "America in the Age of Obama" concert

 

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Chicago’s Goodman Theatre has announced a new partnership with the Austrian steel town of Linz.  Read Chris Jones‘ (from the Trib) article here.
   

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The Auditorium Theatre, in partnership with City Lights Orchestra, will be holding a special one-time concert  on Wednesday, Feb. 11th at 7:30, entitled “America in the Age of Obama: A Concert Honoring Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

This special benefit concert will feature music by Grammy-winner Linda Clifford, jazz-trumpet legend Orbert Davis, The Soul Children of Chicago, and Walter Payton College Prep Concert Choir.  CBS Chicago anchor Jim Williams will emcee, and special guests include Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Boeing Company VP Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Roosevelt University President Charles Middleton.  

For more info, visit AuditoriumTheatre.org. For tickets, call 312.902.1500 or visit Ticketmaster.com.

   
  Soul Children of Chicago
 

Soul Children of Chicago