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Chicago Theater Review: We the People – The Anti-Trump Musical hits all the right notes

Chicago Theater Review: We the People – The Anti-Trump Musical hits all the right notes

Singing, laughing and dancing can certainly take away the blues, and after the last presidential election, we could all use some theater to make sense of the crazy world surrounding us.

Flying Elephant’s world premier We the People: The Anti-Trump Musical, is a political musical song cycle about the turbulent 2016 election, with six actors/singers playing 55 characters. It is currently playing at Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont from Jan. 26 – Feb. 10.

The people need to see this musical. It is absolutely spectacular – the singing is rich, funny and colorful, the dancing (especially the lambada as the characters try to dance their blues away that has the audience roaring in laughter) is fabulous and the lines memorable.

At first I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the political message. Would it be focused on how awful President Trump is when it comes to bashing immigrants, offending women, mocking disabilities, etc., etc. Yes, indeed, the opening songs express all the outrage.

But the next musical number targeted Hillary as her face lights up the screen, and the characters sing their disappointment in who could have been the first female president of the United States. Then there are duets – or sing offs – singing for or against Trump. It’s very entertaining, and the actors express what the people feel – disappointment, confusion, anger, anxiety.

Heck – it doesn’t even matter if you voted for or against the guy, you will be laughing and wanting to sing along in this highly entertaining musical.

The female and male actors all work really well together. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by my wife, a professional singer who studied opera in Russia – and she said all the singers were great, their voices rich and lovely, quite a compliment considering the Russians have high standards when it comes to the arts. The one who stood out for her was Elizabeth Rentfro, her dramatic soprano voice rich and full of life in every scene. I also enjoyed Carmen Fisher Risi – the sexy female voice – whether she’s giving a bubbly weather report as the silly blond bimbo Trump cultivated, or the NY Jewish accent about how he’s not her president. She hits all the right notes. Alyssa Soto rounds out the three female singers.

The three male actors are none the worse. The leader with a booming baritone voice is Dwayne Everett, his presence strong in every role. Bradley Halverson, who earned his degree in fine arts at Roosevelt University, is wonderful as well, and Timothy Swaim has funny lines along with his high notes.

Each musical piece keeps building on the previous. The powerful moment is a solo performed by Halverson which expresses the confusion among voters who voted for Trump because of his populist promises and not having a job or affordable healthcare under Obama. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, he sings in a melancholy and haunting voice.

This musical takes the audience from the party conventions through election night and its immediate aftermath into the realization of “Trump’s America.” It then culminates with a call to action from “We the People.” There is the powerful, positive lyrical message of hope in the end, but it is up to the people to steer America in the right direction.

“Often, an artist’s job is to light dark corners and elucidate a way to a new understanding of the world,” Flying Elephant Executive Dir. Leo Swartz said. “We see life differently and we passionately express our vision. Whether it’s to expose the workhouses of Victorian London in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, or the ravages of the Spanish Civil War in Picasso’s Guernica, or the social upheaval of the ‘60s with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, art inspires us to reconsider, to act, to challenge. We the People is a call to action to save those things which we hold most dear, our country and our freedom.”

This powerful new musical features a book by Sean Chandler, music and lyrics by Leo Schwartz, direction by Derek Van Barham and music direction by Ty Miles. WE THE PEOPLE will play January 26 – February 10, 2018 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago.

Curtain Times:
Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm. 

Tickets: Preview $30. Regular run $40. Thursdays “Industry Night” $10 with headshot/resume.

Tickets are currently available at stage773.com, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office.