The Spickner Spin

nytheatre.com review by Kyle Ancowitz
August 15, 2004

Delightful and daring as it is, The Spickner Spin delivers only about 5/6ths of its promised “new musical satire.” It is certainly new and certainly a musical, but the satirical element of this tale about master political strategist Stephen Spickner falls off after the first act. When Spickner (Patrick Wetzel) wagers his former protege, the sinister Susan Stridewell (ably performed by Seri Johnson), that his Rovian wiles could get even a wino elected Mayor of Center City, the game, as they say, is on. I am not going to say what happens here, but I will say that it happens before the second act. What the show has to say about the political scene is sharply observed and refreshingly detached from current events—universal, in other words—but it is clear early on that what we are really seeing is the transformative power of love. In the finale, when Spickner falls on his own sword and misses, you can bet it’s because of a sweetly singing somebody.

That somebody would be Midwest ingenue and love interest Alice Whitehall, played by Crystal Scott, who is most charming and most convincing when she is singing. Also notable is Michael Jay Henry as “Natty” Walker, Spickner’s candidate for Mayor, who steals every scene he is in. The songs (music by Seth Bisen-Hersh, lyrics by Bisen-Hersh and Daniel Scribner) are fine vehicles for satire, but become somewhat less memorable when the love story kicks in. (I did march to the subway singing “Action! I want action!”) Cheryl Swift’s choreography is witty and assured, but there is a regrettable second act swordfight that someone needs to claim. Scenic designer William Duncan has delivered a purely two-dimensional set that calls to mind an editorial cartoon and really succeeds here. The Spickner Spin has a lot of laughs and a lot of appeal, but just like real politics, a little romance can spoil the fun.

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