Tragicomedy

Trump: The musical!

A perfect confluence of two American institutions: the presidency and the Broadway show
Photo: Matt Johnson

I spent a futile few evenings last week trying to forget about Donald Trump. As I was assaulted from every side by headlines screaming the latest sagas, I decided a few nights out for some musical theatre was just the thing; first up was The Drowsy Chaperone, followed by an evening of Mary Poppins.

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Somewhere through the first act of Chaperone­ — a tongue in cheek romp about the madcap musicals of the 1920s and 30s — I realized that what I’d been taking in “televisually” for the past several months wasn’t simply another episode of bad reality television: it was The Trump Follies.

Yes, that’s right, the time has come for Trump: The Musical!

I know that Trump’s been compared to King Joffrey of Game of Thrones before, and it turns out that an episode of the series was hacked and held for ransom just as a key scene unfolded in The Trump Follies, but hear me out in my argument for the best Trumpian genre to date.

As the narrator notes in Chaperone, musicals harken back to an era when the rich were rich and the poor were poor, and like the great Steve Martin vehicle Pennies from Heaven, extravagant musical productions were a way to escape from ugly realities like the Great Depression or looming fascism. People in strife would simply break into song, and their troubles would magically disappear.

Besides being entertaining distractions from more salient issues, such as Russian intrigue in Washington or impending apocalypse via Pyongyang, musicals also have predictable plot lines — not that different, as the narrator notes, from porno plots. Not so much “oh, how will I ever pay for this pizza?” but more like “oh how will we ever pay for that wall?”

The Drowsy Chaperone
Theatre Under the Stars, Vancouver
Tim Matheson

But as in musical theatre, just when it seems all is lost, an implausible saviour appears and all is well. Just as solar power will apparently pay for the wall or threats of fire and fury will quell an already explosive situation in North Korea, the madcap plotline of The Drowsy Chaperone — loosely based around a would be wedding — veers from one antics-filled scene to another.

Not only does the plot incorporate mistaken identities, dream sequences and deus ex machina, it also stars a Broadway impresario and his Follies production, comic gangsters, a ditzy chorus girl, a harried best man, and a tipsy chaperone specializing in "rousing anthems" and upstaging the co-stars.

Sounds familiar right? Just close your eyes and imagine it all unfolding at the White House. I know what you’re thinking: “Why didn’t I come up with this first? It’s Broadway gold, damn it! Gold!”

Now I know it’s hard to keep up with all the twists and turns of The Trump Follies — the storyline about the relationship between the press secretary and the chief of staff is riveting, not to mention the one where Trump hires Anthony Scaramucci, causing Sean Spicer to resign, thus leaving Reince Priebus isolated and ineffective, so he gets fired and replaced with John Kelly, who immediately fires Scaramucci. And this is followed by apocalyptic political posturing between two mad dictators. Wow! Now imagine it again with kicky choreography.

“It’s been done before,” you say? Well not with Trump as the drowsy chaperone, offering irrelevant drunken advice to the young lovers. In fact Chaperone’s hit number, “As We Stumble Along”, could well become the new Trump anthem as he goes from one political blunder to the next.

But then, alas, the next evening’s musical theatre outing made an even stronger case for Trump: The Musical and possible borrowed storylines. Even as I tried not to think of Trump while watching Mary Poppins, I couldn’t help but reflect on how, in it’s own way, it’s a fable for our time.

Is Trump, like the harried Mr. Banks (who eventually sees the light, rejects capitalism and takes the time to fly kites with his children) also just the victim of a nasty childhood nanny?

Mary Poppins
Theatre Under the Stars, Vancouver
Tim Matheson

It occurred to me that Mary Poppins was kind of a communist as I watched the “Feed the Birds” number and the subsequent panic at the bank. In Trump: The Musical, she would definitely be played by Bernie Sanders.

I wondered if “Spoonful of Sugar” could become the new theme song for Trump’s axe Obamacare plan and whether “covfefe” could become the new “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”

Is Trump just like the petulant and childish Michael Banks, in that all he needs is the right nanny to keep him in line? Could Mary Poppins “Make America Great Again”? Would I cast Mooch and Spicer as the dancing penguins? And more importantly, with Bannon now gone, is John Kelly finally going to clean up the nursery?

This libretto is going to take a lot of work. I’m currently re-writing the role of Mr. Banks’s evil childhood nanny, Miss Andrew, as the perfect cameo vehicle for Kim Jong-un. Can’t you just see him killing “Brimstone and Treacle” (albeit with a few lyric substitutions like “nuclear warheads” instead of “carbolic soap”)?

To fully concentrate on my new hit show, I may have to refrain from contemplating Putin’s Western assets, deals with oligarchs, not-so-covert plans to bomb Iran the arming of Saudi Arabia’s dirty war in Yemen, American neo-Nazis and the death of the American middle class. But at least there will be dancing.

I’m already contemplating my next Trump vehicle: a musical of Doctor Strangelove. This would of course be followed by The Producers, with David Duke singing “Springtime for Hitler” and The Donald singing “Heil Myself.”

And with Trump’s recent suggestion that his threats against North Korea may spark a tourism boom in Guam, can a production of a Trumpian South Pacific be far off? Ah, if only one could just wash that man right out of our hair. Meanwhile, thank God for musical theatre: something that actually does make America great.

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