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America’s Favorite Newscaster

Theatre Review by Jose Solís - January 21, 2018

At a young age, Evan Fury (Isaac Miller) has become America's Favorite Newscaster, his star quarterback good looks, commitment to telling the truth, and his unimpeachable work ethic have secured him the top spot among all news hosts, and his refusal to utter the name of the corrupt, incompetent President have also made him the target of angry presidential tweets. Yes, the musical that opened at Theater for the New City on January 14, is in fact about the current administration, and by focusing on he-who-rhymes-with-dump's constant attack on the free press, it's also far from being escapism.

The show with book and lyrics by Tom Attea, and music by Arthur Abrams, takes a Capra-esque approach to how journalists ought to deal with the 45th President, by having Evan be so committed to his cause that his colleagues are brutally beaten inside the White House, as the narcissist in chief demands Fury utter his name at least once. But in his search for justice, Fury has been neglecting his pregnant wife Cheryl (Alexandra Schwartz) who gives him an ultimatum: he has to choose between his family or his job.

Fury has become so obsessed with defeating the President, that he even sees him in his dreams (he's played by David O. Friedman wearing a bright yellow wig, pursing his lips and shouting his way through his songs) and when he finally decides to take a break from work, his obsession seems to become even more potent, he sees Donald everywhere, at the beach, in his living room, and even in his bed, between him and his wife. The show cleverly captures the President's constant appearances and the inescapability of his presence, but in doing so it just reassures us of something we already know, creating a two hour drama with no stakes.

The conflict at the center of the show never becomes clear, as it suggests we should ignore the news, but also reminds us of our civic responsibility to doing better than the politicians we see on C-SPAN. The songs add little to the character development, and while some of them are catchy, none of them feel essential. There's really no reason for America's Favorite Newscaster to be a musical, rather than a straight play.

Where the show excels is in the casting of Miller, who embodies the qualities of heroes of movies past. He acts as if the spirits of Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper took over the body of a young Matt Damon. Evan Fury could perfectly be a caricature, and in many ways he is, but rather than shying away from it, Miller acknowledges this larger than life quality and delivers a performance full of humor and heart. He's always game and in doing so manages to make us forget about the terrors that await us in the news channels and on Twitter once the show comes to an end, if only for a minute.

America's Favorite Newscaster
Through January 28
Theater For the New City, 155 1st Avenue, between East 9th and East 10th Streets
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix

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