james roussel, paul o’sullivan, ashley botting, trevor martin
If you think that Stephen Harper is nothing to sing or dance about, I suggest that you head down to The Second City Mainstage to check out the Shehori Brothers’ newest show Stephen Harper! The Musical, which plays until July 25th, 2010.
The Prime Minister has endeared himself to the nation by playing the piano and singing a rousing rendition of “Me and my Peeps” at a corporate event, but as far as leadership and policies are concerned the Conservative government are getting desperate to insure their survival for the impending election. Harper’s top advisers, Church and Marie-Claire, devise a scheme to capitalize on the charming, likeable piano-playing Harper and commission a musical to be written surrounding the Prime Minister’s life. The only obstacle is that the tale of Harper’s rise to power is not an entirely inspiring or sympathetic one, therefore Church and Marie-Claire decide to take certain poetic license with the story and to open the show in New York for an audience of Americans unaware of Harper’s reputation and select theatre critics, whose praise is needed for the Canadian public to embrace the art of their own country.
Stephen Harper! The Musical is simultaneously a tale about the Prime Minister grappling with his conscience about which is more important, a majority government or being truthful to his country and a hilariously absurd musical-within-a-musical which manages to both poke fun at Stephen Harper and completely rewrite his biography. Daniel and Steven Shehori cram this musical with genuine humour that caters to an audience without an intense knowledge of politics and so this musical is not a series of satirical political sketches connected together with clever and witty lyrics, but instead, a story centered on its cast of characters.
The musical-within-the-musical provides composer Jay McCaroll with the opportunity to create the majority of the show’s catchiest and most hilariously conceived songs, with lyrics cleverly penned by the Shehori Brothers. There is a particularly hilarious country twang song, sang by a cowboy hat toting Harper, and one entitled “The Coalition of the Chillin,’” which is suggestive of a 1996 Backstreet Boys video. The fictional musical also dips into absurd, and sometimes a bit confusing, territory with the addition of Barack Obama and Albus Dumbledore puppets, but since it is supposed to be a ridiculous superhero Stephen Harper myth, even an outrageously offensive Canadian burn song is accepted as being part of this fictional world.
I was really impressed with the calibre of performances in this show. All four performers have lovely voices, and the songs especially suit Ashley Botting, who plays two distinct character roles (and the Prime Minister at twelve), but still with the singing voice of an ingénue. Paul O’Sullivan is hilarious as the wise old janitor from Pembroke, Trevor Martin gives a lovely performance as the apprehensive actor, Presley, and the cutthroat Church, and James Roussel has captured all of Harper’s awkwardness, but also manages to give him both a conscience and a heart, which may be controversial.
Stephen Harper! The Musical is not as fierce a political commentary as, it could be argued, this Prime Minister warrants, but in its celebratory nature to find the laughter in everything, it is a genuinely fun evening of theatre.
Stephen Harper! The Musical plays at The Second City Mainstage (51 Mercer Street at Blue Jays Way) until July 25th. For tickets or more information, please call 416.343.0011 or visit www.stephenharperthemusical.com.