Les Freres Corbusier

Jennifer Rogien & Aaron Lemon-Strauss, Producers

presents

PRESIDENT HARDING IS A ROCK STAR

Music and Text by KYLE JARROW

 

Twww.lesfreres.org, www.presidentharding.org

 

HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue, NYC, July 11 through August 3, 2003

 

Directed by ALEX TIMBERS

Sets DAVID EVANS MORRIS

Lighting JULIET CHIA

Costumes CAROLINE DUNCAN

Stage Manager KATHERINE WEST

Press Consultant CORINNE ZADIK

Press Representative MELIS BILGIN, THE BRUCE COHEN GROUP

 

Cast

Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum as Alexander Hamilton/Albert Fall/Al Jolson

Ryan Karels as Harry Daugherty

Damian Long as Amos Kling/Herbert Hoover

Elizabeth Meriwether as Nan Britton

Gerardo Rodriguez as Napoleon/Jess Smith

Caesar Samayoa as Warren G. Harding

Nandita Shenoy as Rosa Hoyle

Simone Zamore as Florence Harding

 

Band

Kyle Jarrow – Piano

Michael Tapper – Drums

Alan Wilkis – Guitar

 

Straight from the annals of our collective presidential pasts comes a feisty new musical comedy based on the antics of the late Warren G. Harding aptly called PRESIDENT HARDING IS A ROCK STAR. Remember him? Recall the Teapot Dome Scandal? No? Well, just consider him the kind of guy that Bill Clinton cannot even be compared to. Spend just over an hour with W.G., and Bill’s unlit cigar seems like a minor transgression. Really.

 

Past and present merge with rock score accompaniment as we meet the bawdy Harding. He gropes, he fucks, he drinks, he hallucinates, and he sings, sings, sings. Expounding on the fact that Harding was in a band prior to being elected president in 1920, the clever author, Kyle Jarrow, envisions this controversial leader as the rock star of the White House. Real episodes, like Harding’s gambling away of the White House china during a drunken card game, are interspersed with clever concoctions that bend time and explore Harding’s state of mind. In one great scene, Harding snorts cocaine with Alexander Hamilton and Napoleon Bonaparte as the latter recounts love-making to Josephine atop a mountain of corpses most enthusiastically. In another scene, most akin to the crazy life-size lobster assault in John Waters film, MULTIPLE MANIACS, the audience experiences Harding’s recurring dream of being embraced by a life-size crab.

 

 

Combining the theory that Florence Harding was responsible for her husband’s sudden death in 1923, and that Harding may have died of ptomaine poisoning after a serving of bad crab, PRESIDENT HARDING IS A ROCK STAR introduces a dutiful wife who force-feeds her philandering husband with crab. Harding is harassed by his mistresses, the 17-year-old Nan Britton in particular (with whom he fathered a child), his Cabinet and his cohorts as his life and presidency degrade beyond the point of no return.

 

Kyle Jarrow’s eye for the irony of history must make his former teachers proud. Most impressive here, however, is his ear for music, melody and the ability to meld these senses with his own sense of humor. The songs kick ass. Most notable is the fabulous Simone Zamore, who, as Florence Harding, belts out the tunes in a way that captivates the crowd and leaves one wanting more. Paired with period yet rock & roll garb, the "I LOVE Myself" all-Harding, all the time set, the live band, and Alex Timbers’ rocking pacing, the package comes together in one fast and furious jolt.

Based on historical fact, popular innuendo and imbued with the kind of dramatic license that inspired comedy allows, PRESIDENT HARDING IS A ROCK STAR plays like a history lesson on acid. With a tiny bit of polish, some more production money and a little more elbow room to get the action going, this is one new show that could really be going places.

 

- Kessa De Santis -

 

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