Grapevine — Breaking news! For a limited time, you can get the cast recording of the ever-changing musical Citizen Drumpf, performed by the cast of Ohlook Performing Arts Center. If you act now, for the special rate of $15 (plus $1.80 ticket fee when purchased online), you'll hear such hits as:
Jesus is My Pal
Make America Great Again
Still Dicking Bimbos
Stop! (Don’t Grab My Pussy)
Actually there is no cast recording (yet), but you can hear these songs, and others, performed live by a spirited cast at Grapevine’s Ohlook, which has late-night (11 p.m.) performances of this musical on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 5, a few days before election day. Appropriately, it follows the 7:30 p.m. performances of Little Shop of Horrors.
When you see Drumpf (thank you John Oliver) it will probably be slightly different from the previous performance, and bigly changed from several weeks ago. That’s because, as a musical about this presidential election in general and Donald Trump specifically, there’s a steady stream of new material to add.
I originally saw the show—book, music and lyrics by Matthew Lord and music, orchestrations and arrangements by Kelley Poché Rodriguez—in August when it was in workshop mode. It was then taken down for a month to rework, with the plan to cut it down and remove the intermission.
It reopened Oct. 7, and I caught it again on Oct. 14. The intermission was still there, the cast changed slightly, a few songs and scenes were dumped, and there were added songs from new scandals and revelations and the fact that Trump can’t stop being Trump.
Directed by Jill Blalock Lord (who runs Ohlook), the show highlights the YUGE moments in these last 15 months of hell, including the Republican primary. At a debate with the three dozen other contestants, Drumpf—played by Cliff McClelland in bad wig, orange tan and reverse raccoon eyes—fires Ted, Jed, Marco, Carly, Lindsey, et al, one by one, Presidential Apprentice style. Before that we get imagined scenes of Trump’s growing up at a school filled with other Richie Riches (Bernie Madoff, the Lehman brothers, etc.) and receiving that little allowance from papa Drumpf. The late Charles Ponzi, namesake for the scheme, even makes an appearance.
Bernie Sanders (John Garrison) begins as a narrator of sorts, but as the role is written, eventually gets too Larry David-as-Bernie, when he could be the soul and conscience of this musical. Hillary (played by Kyle Januszewski in drag) isn’t exactly shown in a flattering light. Gags about the emails and Bill’s (Matt Mitchell) philandering are some of the show’s funnier moments. In the latest version, Bill has a song related to Colin Powell’s Wikileaked email accusing him of “Still Dicking Bimbos.”
Every other character you can imagine makes it into Citizen Drumpf. Gary Johnson has a great Michelle Obama-echoing line “When they go low, I go high” as he tokes up. Matt Mitchell also plays Drumpf Sr., Vladimir Putin and Howard Stern. The ensemble of Sailor Wallace, Araceli Bowling, Lacey Jane Dangerstone, Grace Lord, Jessica Erin, Justin Rowe, Tobyas Meeks, Shawn Gann and Drew Mitchell play Melania, Ivana, Mike Pence, Monica Lewinsky, Anderson Cooper, Alicia Machado, Kardashians and Gosselins, Andrew Dice Clay and Gary Busey. Because why not? I'll wager that Anthony Weiner becomes a new player.
In the workshop, Barack Obama was in it because they had a black actor to play him. When they couldn’t find another black actor as a replacement, Obama was dropped. But this show isn’t about any presidents before the one we’ll select on Nov. 8, 2016. (And Ohlook has already done Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, twice.)
What’s fun about Citizen Drumpf—no real correlation to Citizen Kane, aside from the election and new forms of yellow journalism, courtesy of ratings-grabs and clickbait—is that much of the dialogue comes from actual words that fell out of Drumpf’s mouth (“I could do anything and they’d still vote for me”). Some of it is vulgar, notably the new song “Stop!” in which several of Drumpf’s sexual assault accusers sing “don’t grab my pussy.” This was a recent addition, after the Billy Bush bombshell.
It’s not surprising considering that the creator, Matthew Lord, one of the founding members of the 3 Redneck Tenors, has about as irreverent a mind as anyone I’ve encountered. Years ago, his parody of the musical Annie received some backlash for its title, a word that rhymes with “Annie” and is a derogatory term for transsexual.
The opening song, “’Merica,” sung by the ensemble, has the lyrics “we fight for what’s right/and by ‘right,’ I mean ‘white.’” Later on, KKK hoods come out, which the theater had from its production of Jerry Springer the Opera last year. Other so-wrong-it's-funny touches include Drumpf’s hands (the actor, McClelland wears black gloves and holds doll hands), and a bit with the crying baby that Drumpf kicked out of a rally.
The music is fairly generic, a blend of pop and Broadway with some gospel and folk mixed in. It’s performed by Rodriguez (keyboards), Michael Moffitt (percussion), Michael Dill (wind synthesizer) and Eric Putnam (bass). Considering new songs pop up as needed, it’s pretty impressive that Matthew Lord and Rodriguez whip out lyrics and a melody so quickly. Take, for instance, the opening verse for “Stop!”
I’ve been silent for far too long
About a man who done me wrong
Sat next to him in first class
Dismissed him as a giant ass
But he kept talking and telling me crap
About how he traveled all over the map
Started telling me ‘bout deals with China
Then he reached for my vagina!!
Ohlisten, here’s a rehearsal version of the full song (warning: coarse language)
As is typical of Ohlook—and this has more to do with the small stage and its unwieldy entrance points at the front, rather than backstage—scene transitions could be smoother, and a few scenes should tighten up. The Howard Stern interview goes on too long, but the campaign speech scenes, for both Drumpf and Hillary, are spot on. Try not to smile at the DNC balloon moment.
McClelland has grown into Trump’s mannerisms and vocal cadence, although I wish the wig had more of the cotton candy effect of the real thing. Januszewski has some funny moments as Hillary, and of course no one’s expecting a polished version like Amy Poehler’s or the even better one by Kate McKinnon. Matt Mitchell is funny in all his roles, but his shirtless Putin is the biggest hoot.
At intermission, the audience votes on whether to put Drumpf in or keep him out of office, and considering this is a theater crowd you can guess the outcome—even up in the very red northeast Tarrant ’burbs. Some might vote “yes” just because, while it might be scary for the country, a Drumpf presidency would be great for the news cycle. And for comedians, satirists, playwrights and other creative types.
At this point, is there even a place for satire when the real election cycle drops daily reminders that just when you think it couldn’t sink any lower, well...*bloop-bloop-bloop*