“I’m fucking the fucking president. Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” is quite possibly one of the worst lyrics to have stuck in your head. Especially when it’s so catchy that you find yourself muttering it under your breath while shopping. Unfortunately, that’s what a night at Clinton: The Musical will do to you. Full of inappropriate lyrics, wildly addictive melodies and a plethora of multicoloured pantsuits, you’ll be left falling asleep to images of Hillary Clinton dancing with invisible maracas for days.
Coming off a sellout season on Broadway, Clinton: The Musical has just had its Australian premiere at the State Theatre Centre in our own fair city of Perth. The curtains (fittingly in red, white and blue) rose to an electric guitar rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner – prophetically revealing Hillary Clinton (Lisa Adam) behind that big, old desk in the Oval Office. In perfect imitation of Hillary’s semi-southern drawl, she began to speak; “I would like to tell you the story of my first Presidency. In my whole life I have only ever loved two men, and they happen to be the same man.”
Creatively written for two leading actors, the musical details the consequences of Bill Clinton’s two conflicting personalities during his time in the White House: ‘Saturday Night Bill’ (Matt Dyktynski) and ‘Sunday Morning President’ (Simon Burke). From Whitewater (ooooooh) to the Lewinsky sex scandal, this performance doesn’t shy away from the more controversial aspects of Clinton’s leadership and personality. Mix94.5’s Matt Dyktynski and Australian film, theatre and TV icon Simon Burke perfectly complimented one another as a union of opposites in the portrayal of America’s most scandalous President in living memory (and the only one to play the sax!). Although they spent much of the performance bouncing witty one-liners off each other, there were wonderful moments of sincerity where the real struggle of balancing a personal life in public office was explored.
Although the cast was relatively small, there was no shortage of iconic and vivid characters. Hillary was delightfully well written; complex, funny and equally subject to scrutiny. It is really a testament to the creative genius of director Adam Mitchell and writers Paul and Michael Hodge that during the performance I managed to laugh at every single character. From Eleanor Roosevelt to Kenneth Starr, no-one was safe from comedic interrogation. Yet somehow, almost as if through crazy theatre magic, every single character had depth beyond the jokes. Hillary, although owning a vast collection of sorcery items and terrible dance moves, still broke down sincerely when she discovered the truth about Bill’s affair. Similarly, though Newt Gingrich’s main character trait was the perpetual item of food in his hands, he still showed genuine anxiety and betrayal at the show’s end. It is very easy to see how Clinton could have been simply a tongue-in-cheek jab at the bizarre world of modern politics; however I felt that beneath the pantsuits and crotch-less leather leggings it carried a complexity that was not immediately obvious under the bright lights and patriotic flags.
Yes, I can now say that I have seen Brendan Hanson’s exposed buttocks, and yes, one of the best characters in the entire show was Al Gore (fittingly portrayed by a recyclable cardboard cutout). But underneath it all Clinton is a story about how we expect politicians to be bright, shining lights of purity and honour, when in reality they are just people. They may be narcissistic, corrupted by distorted ambition and years of poor fashion choices, but they are still just people.
Words by Caitlin Carr
If you’re looking for a night of brilliant song writing, quality acting, lame dance moves and blush inducing laughter, be sure to hit up Clinton: The Musical. Performing at the West Australian State Theatre Centre until the 11th of September.