★★★★☆ Crass, colourful and immensely entertaining theatre.
Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth
August 31, 2016
Going down on President Clinton may not ultimately have brought him down, but when Monica Lewinsky (the wonderful Megan Kozak) gleefully sings in Clinton: The Musical, “I’m fucking the fucking President”, the metaphor looms as large as one of Bill’s cigars.
As lurid and grotesque as a political cartoon by Gilray or Scarfe, this funny, smart musical by Brisbanites Paul Hodge and Michael Hodge has received its Australian premiere in Perth after well-received performances at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, London’s King’s Head Theatre, the New York Musical Theatre Festival and Off-Broadway.
Lisa Adam, Simon Burke and Matt Dyktynski
Covering the before, during and after of Bill Clinton’s arguably most turbulent time in office when he was impeached and subsequently acquitted after being accused of lying about his “sexual relations” with young intern Lewinsky, Clinton: The Musical is as much about Hillary Clinton (a terrific Lisa Adam) – and here the material has been updated to reflect the current political climate – as it is about a very different kind of Double Bill.
That’s right: Clinton is portrayed by two actors: Simon Burke is WJ (“good”) Clinton; Matt Dyktynski is Billy (“bad”) Clinton. It sounds naff, but it works a treat, with only Hillary able to see both Bills and the other characters left thinking either WJ or Billy has lost his marbles as he argues with his unseen other self.
Billy is clearly a liability. But he’s a lot more appealing than WJ. Therein lay the strengths and the weaknesses which characterised Clinton’s two terms in office. Burke and Dyktynski bring out this devilish dialectic to perfection, and in this opening night performance were clearly having a ball.
But it’s not the Bills’ show by a long shot, with Adam delivering a parodic powerhouse performance as Hillary that is nearly matched by those of Kozak’s naïve Lewinsky, Brendan Hanson’s deliciously camp, vaudevillian villain-styled investigator Kenneth Starr (listen out for his big number, A Starr is Born), Luke Hewitt’s food-obsessed Newt Gingrich and Clare Moore’s platitude-spouting revenant, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Luke Hewitt, Brendan Hanson, Megan Kozak, Clare Moore, Matt Dyktynski, Simon Burke and Lisa Adam
Indeed, this is a genuine ensemble effort. Director Adam Mitchell mercilessly sends his cast cavorting around designer Bruce McKinven’s ingenious spinning White House rotunda to Claudia Alessi’s clever choreography and the often deliberately cheesy music performed by David Young’s small band of merry musicians. But they never once miss a beat.
Clinton: The Musical is crass, colourful and immensely entertaining, and even if it were the creators’ only Legacy (another great number from the show), it would be a damn fine one.
Clinton: The Musical plays in Perth until September 11