The presidential election meets ‘The Bachelor’ in lush, witty 1931 ‘Of Thee I Sing’ from Lyric Stage
by Nancy Churnin
IRVING — As tensions mount during the last days of a presidential election where life-altering issues are obscured by emotionally charged soundbites, you can happily take a break with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Thee I Sing. The satirical musical offers grim comfort in its reminder that the public’s propensity for manipulation was just as ripe for parody in 1931. Plus, there’s that delicious George and Ira Gershwin score, performed as only Lyric Stage does it, with a 36-person cast and 34-person orchestra, under the unerring baton of music director Jay Dias.
Drew Shafranek, who won best actor in Lyric Stage’s annual high school competition four years ago, returns as a polished Actors Equity member to bring charisma to presidential candidate John P. Wintergreen, who runs on the “love” platform. In a gimmick that anticipates ABC’s reality show, The Bachelor, he pledges to marry the winner of a beauty pageant (a lovely, funny Samantha McHenry). Problems ensue when he falls for a non-contestant, Mary Turner (Kristen Lassiter, with a shimmering, operatically trained soprano).
The show is presented in concert which means there aren’t full sets or costumes. Still, there’s no shortage of shtick, thanks to Dick Monday’s direction. Monday gives ample comic opportunities to clowning connoisseurs Andy Baldwin as the rubber-limbed vice president Alexander Throttlebottom and Brian Hathaway as the stiff-necked French ambassador who takes up the beauty contestant’s cause. Every laugh counts in getting us through this final election weekend.
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Continues through Nov. 6. Lyric Stage at Irving Arts Center, 3333 MacArthur Blvd., Irving. 972-252-2787. $15-$53. lyricstage.org. Performance reviewed was Thursday. Running time: 2 hours.