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Caucus! The Musical

The sheer amount of attention which Iowa voters get pre-caucus is extravagant. We can all meet most of the candidates personally if we want to. Several times. Our answering machines are stuffed with messages and our mailboxes with fliers. Caucusing is very much a neighborhood event, and if your neighbors get behind a particular candidate enthusiastically, you'll know it. They'll call you to promote their candidate - as neighbors, they say, not as politics. And all of this happens a week to months before other states are ready to start dealing with the process. It's decadent not having the precedent of other states to help sway voters, but it's really quite silly just how much attention we get - especially this year.

And that's why Caucus! The Musical was written. It's the story of the fictional Wise family, statistically typical Iowas, who are the subject of a series of articles by a New York Times reporter. That attention means they become THE voters whom the leading four candidates of both political parties try to attract to their cause over the course of the months and days leading up to the caucuses. It's a funny take on everyone's worries, from the stresses of the system-gaming politicians to the stress of a family under too much attention. Along the way, we also meet the candidates' campaign managers, the waitress at the local café, and an out-of-job factory worker. Radio ads - too true and very wrong - for the candidates intersperse the acts. It's a plot with twists, with a lovely narrative tidiness, and not too much character development.

Staging was simple and effective, and costuming aided in keeping the cast straight, but light design and operation was occasionally ineffectual. Gina Gedlar, playing the waitress, was the vocal standout of the cast, with the rest generally delivering their songs solidly. Good song titling included "Anything for a Vote" and "The Tough Question Sidestep" (a song-and-dance number). At the moment, though, "One Happy Family" is the only song whose tune I can still remember. Tunes were accessible, with a live band accompanying, hidden behind the raised platform on the stage.

Best of all were the lines and lyrics, densely full of references to presidential candidates past, the importance of pronouncing Dubuque correctly, and skewering both major political parties. It's endearing without being cute, sometimes educational, and almost always irreverent.

The musical's on until January 13th (the day before the caucuses were originally going to be held!) at the State Historical Museum.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 5th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
Shana! It is so cool to discover you had caucused in Iowa -- I know you only from Toronto, knew only your history in Massachusetts, and know that you've been slumming in the UK. Congratulations! I've been working for Obama in NH -- a virgin political experience for yours truly. Following on Caucus!the Musical is The Primary Primary! also a musical:

Thanks for all your writing
Jan. 5th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
Dear Mystery Person whom I obviously must know, (If only LJ made it more obvious that you're commenting quite anonymously),

I LOVE the idea of The Primary Primary! It's an enterprising and relevant reuse of the work the playwright already went to to write Caucus!

What's it like being a campaign worker for the first time?
Jan. 7th, 2008 02:53 am (UTC)
Being with the Obama campaign is like being in high school again -- doing the bake sale, running the dance, whatever... doing all the simple things that make a difference. I love door knocking, getting tallies, talking politics, listening to people vent. Our little precinct/ward is HQ'd for the final push in a house near Keene High, donated by an Obama enthusiast; we have a great dog who loves everybody, pb&J's, pot luck food, a real nice mix of ages 18-80, from MA,CT,VT,NY,PA ... college energy, steady, smart, excited worker bees...

Gina Rheault, 2003-2004 at IHPST...living in Amherst, MA, channeling Emily Dickinson at Amherst01002....
Jan. 9th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Hello! It's good to hear from you. Now that the primaries in New Hampshire are done, will you be helping the campaign in a different state? I'm glad it was so much fun!
Jan. 5th, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Hee! That sounds wonderful. I've been enjoying following the news reports of the pre-caucus excitement, and the BBC did a great little spot on that musical. My personal favorite song title that they mentioned was "Get Off Your Sorry Ass And Vote" :) It's so awesome that you actually got to see the musical!
Jan. 5th, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
Somehow I feel like somewhere along the line there became a 'formula' for how to campaign. What saddens me the most is that it actually works.
Jan. 5th, 2008 06:58 pm (UTC)
That's one of the nice things about the musical: the big final plot twist is that all the candidates campaigning the usual way have completely undermined themselves in the process of undermining each other.
Jan. 5th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
If only that would turn out to be true.
Jan. 5th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a very fun show to see ... they should tour!
Jan. 6th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
I love that this musical exists.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )