Interview with Gerard Alessandrini
by Nancy Rosati
Mr. President is being presented with its original Irving Berlin score mostly intact, but with many new lyrics and a new and updated book. Characters include George Shrub Jr, Al Bore, Chillary Ramrod Fenton and General Colehouse Powell. The cast features Whitney Allen, Jono Mainelli, Amanda Naughton, Michael West, Eric Jordan Young, Stuart Zagnit, and Clif Thorn as Mr. President. Performances will alternate with Forbidden Broadway 2001 in the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre.
After Mr. President, the Forbidden Broadway team hopes to present more long forgotten musicals such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Carrie, and a 75 minute stage version of the film musical Lost Horizon (all rights pending). Other plans include twelve years of Forbidden Broadway Les Miserables spoofs all rolled into one evening called More Miserable and an anthology of songs from Broadway failures called Flop-O-Rama.
I recently spoke with Gerard Alessandrini after a performance of Mr. President.
Nancy Rosati: How did you come up with the idea of doing Mr. President?
Gerard Alessandrini: We thought we’d take some older Broadway shows and either do them the way they were (campy) or twist them around. I don’t know if you know the original Mr. President.
NR: Not at all.
GA: Most of the songs are still in our evening of Mr. President, but the concepts of the songs are completely bent around from what they were in the original, so you get it on different levels. I don’t expect everybody to get all of the levels. As a matter of fact, nobody ever really does, but I hope it’s entertaining in its own right.
We thought we’d start with Mr. President because I had gotten access to the Irving Berlin catalogue, which has been forbidden for years. We’ve thought about doing the film musical of Lost Horizon or something like that on stage. Then we’ve also thought we’d do some Forbidden stuff like put all the Les Miz skits together, and then run for a month or so. We’re doing this on the off times of Forbidden Broadway, generally late at night. Thursday night is one of the few nights we’re doing it at 8:15.
NR: This show works even if you don’t know the original.
GA: I should think so. It’s quite obscure so not many people are familiar with the show.
NR: Politics is so absurd to begin with, how did you strike the balance between absurdity and humor?
GA: What I did first was make it a parody of musicals.
GA: No. They’ll probably just ignore it.
NR: (laughing) You’re not in a hurry to get Hillary (Clinton) to come and watch it?
GA: (looking horrified) No!
NR: Are you going to record a CD of this?
GA: I haven’t thought of that. I don’t know.
NR: Would you consider extending past September?
GA: No, because we want to do the other stuff. We’d like to do the Les Miz evening or a Best of Forbidden Broadway - something like that. Unless of course Mr. President gets stampeded, but even then I would move it. I wouldn’t leave it here. Forbidden Broadway has to be the main show here.
Mr. President is playing in repertory with Forbidden Broadway 2001: A Spoof Odyssey at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre on West 42nd Street. Performance schedule is Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:15 pm, Wednesdays at 2:30 pm, Fridays at 10:15 pm, Saturdays at 5:00 pm and 10:15 pm. After July 30th, they will drop the Wednesday matinee and add a Sunday matinee at 3:30 pm. Tickets are $45. Call (212) 239-6200, for group sales (212) 840-5564.
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