Bush Is Bad: Impeachment Edition
nytheatre.com review by Fred Backus
September 30, 2006
Just in time for what is looking like a closely contested and particularly rancorous midterm election season, Bush is Bad has returned—offering up another unapologetic hour and a half of rampant Bush-bashing in the form of a satirical musical review. And while declining poll numbers and mounting criticism of the Bush Administration and the Republican Party have made the political climate a little less desperate for Bush detractors, you can rest assured that Bush is Bad: Impeachment Edition is as proudly partisan and brutally jibing as its earlier incarnation.
If anything, composer Joshua Rosenblum and his talented three-person cast consisting of Janet Dickinson, Neal Mayer, and Michael McCoy have adopted even more of a slash and burn approach to taking swipes at the President. Taking a page straight from bushorchimp.com, the performers open the show with side-by-side photographic comparisons of Bush and various chimpanzees—with corresponding ape postures and armpit scratching—before launching into the show's new opening number, "Wake Me When it's 2009." Other new numbers include: "The Man from Diebold" (a ballad of a day in the life of the guy who "fixes" the voting machines), "Anyone Can Grow up to be President," and "Won't You Please," which puts out an appeal for someone to engage with Bush in the same sexual acts that got his predecessor impeached.
Like its original incarnation, many of the musical numbers in Bush is Bad: Impeachment Edition rely heavily on scathingly over-the-top imitations of various Republican political figures. Neal Mayer does a good portrayal of Bush's smirk and clipped and awkward speech patterns in "Down in Crawford" and "Heck of a Job," and then takes on Cheney's sneer when he teams up with McCoy as Karl Rove in "Our Job"—an object lesson in political fear-mongering and spin-doctoring. In addition to Rove and a great Donald Rumsfeld, McCoy does a frighteningly funny rendition of Barbara Bush extolling the virtues and inevitability of a Bush political dynasty in "You Can Never Have Enough Bush." Dickinson has fun with a crazed Katherine Harris in "536 Reasons to Love Me," and also gets to take on Condoleezza Rice in the torch song "Can't Help Lovin' That Bush." Here she gets some help from a makeup effect that gives her a large gap between her two front teeth. Below the belt? Maybe, but hey, these folks never said they were going to play nice.
In addition to the new material, the Impeachment Edition brings back many of the musical numbers from its earlier run, including favorites like "The Gay Agenda,""Culture of Life," and "The 'I' Word" (for impeachment), as well as the Good Conservative Values Singers, who Rosenblum uses to point to what might be considered hypocrisy and inconsistency in the pious agenda of America's Right Wing. For me, it is with this type of material, rather than the minutiae of Beltway politics, that Bush is Bad is most successful. It is when Rosenblum tackles the larger issues that create the blue and red divide in this country that his wit and indignation combine to strike with the most strength.
The original run began a year ago when Bush opponents were still trying to recover from 2004, and this gave the show a smoldering, indignant rage that fueled its take-no-prisoners approach to political satire. What is missing from Impeachment Edition is that back-against-the-wall determination that filled the room with so much energy at the beginning of its earlier run, and the material and approach also seem a little less varied this time around. But while cautious success—both theatrically and in terms of public opinion about its target—may have blunted the edge of Bush is Bad a little bit, the show still holds up well and lives up to its title and billing. The cast have fun and do a great job with their respective numbers, while Gary Slavin's tongue-in-cheek direction and appropriately silly choreography keep the show moving. In the end, Bush is Bad: Impeachment Edition should keep both political junkies and anti-Bush stalwarts entertained and walking away satisfied.