The votes have been cast, the seats have been delegated but London Theatre Workshop’s citizens still have one vote left. A skilful six-person cast dazzles these citizens with an abundance of talent as they deliberate between two major American parties. Forget Cameron and Miliband jumping down each others throats, this comedic musical debate is the boxing ring of American politics that you cannot miss. But who will be the next President of the United States of America?
NBS presents a live debate between the groomed and rehearsed election candidates, Buddy Rounsaville and Janet Tilghman (Hans Rye and Emily Lynne respectively). In a 90 minute debate we see the stress and immorality behind the presidential election from the side of a TV camera and from behind the scenes through cheesy, glitzy, tap-dancing musical theatre numbers. Rye and Lynne head this small cast with voices that fill the space, almost knocking the audience out of their seats, and this show gives them a chance to show off their extraordinary talents. Highlights for the two performers include their two solo numbers, ‘Am I Nervous?’ for the anxious but determined Janet and ‘I Know This One’ where Buddy reverts back to an excited, rebellious child, topped off with some head-banging.
Moderating the debate is Robyn Fiedler (Lucy Grainger) whose reactions as the cold TV panellist provide more entertainment than you can imagine. It was in ‘Robyn’s Lament’ that we were really blown away by Grainger, as her voice certainly didn’t need to hide behind that news desk. On the other side of the camera is The Advisor (Joe Leather) for Janet and Buddy. Depicted as a guardian angel figure, or perhaps devil, we are given a glimpse into the corruption of presidential debates. The candidates are told what to say, have rehearsed every last line and The Advisor is presenting to us how easy it is for a PR team to manipulate what the public are going to hear.
Finishing off the cast are the two ‘loving’ partners of the candidates; Amy Rounsaville and Roger Tilghman (Jennie Jacobs and Arvid Larsen). Jacobs’s character is determined to be First Lady, or FLOTUS as she calls it, and will stop at nothing to make sure this happens. Her false smile and devious habits give an intriguing twist to the devoted partners, like Roger, that we are usually exposed to. While supporting Rye and Lynne, these two partners give their own special touch to the show; something would be missing without them.
This budding cast, under the direction of Dom O’Hanlon, brings Drew Fornarola and Scott Elmegreen’s witty script and show tunes to life. O’Hanlon transports a British audience into the American debate through clever cuts and choreography that was reminiscent of a true Broadway show. With a few clever shout-outs to Les Miserables (everyone knows the famous ‘One Day More’ movements), O’Hanlon clearly knew his audience and gave the show an extra spark of wit and comedy in imaginative ensemble numbers.
What I liked so much about this show, other than everything I’ve already mentioned, was that the comedy wasn’t only there to entertain. We were not only there to laugh at the extremes of politics but to listen to an important point. Behind the tears of laughter and wit, Fornarola and Elmegreen have given us an insight into the manipulation of the media through portraying politicians as puppets, the necessity to vote in a roof-raising, tongue-tying 139 words, and, something we all too often forget, that politicians are real people too.
The UK premiere of this show is one not to miss. I came out beaming at what I had just witnessed; from the book to the music, from the creative to the cast, this is an astounding fringe production and I expect big things for everyone involved.
Vote for Me: A Musical Debate is playing London Theatre Workshop until 23 May. For more information and tickets, see the London Theatre Workshop website.