Sunday, August 16, 2009

VOTE! A New Musical (Fringe NYC)

It's time for a Theasy Point/Counterpoint!!


I had a good time at VOTE! A New Musical. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this new musical about a high school election, due in part to its star-packed cast with a slew of Broadway performers (most notably Bailey Hanks, Winner of MTV’s “Legally Blonde the Search for Elle Woods and Broadway star Deidre Goodwin who had appeared in eight Broadway shows including A Chorus Line, Chicago and Nine and also the film version of Chicago.

Follows three candidates on their road to the highest elected office in the land at typical American high school. While it might appear to just be a fluff piece about the inner workings of high school politics, VOTE! does briefly try to pose some bigger questions about our country’s political system. It’s lighthearted fun. VOTE! Doesn’t take itself to seriously and the nearly 400 audience members on opening night seemed to enjoy it. The score, written by Steven Jamail, is catchy and well crafted and the cast gives it their all and delivers solid performances across the board. All and all, worth a trip to the polling booth at the Minetta Lane Theatre to catch VOTE!


I decided to see VOTE! for one reason: it featured Deidre Goodwin. And to that extent, I got what I came for. Goodwin is terrific, and somehow manages to sell her one song “Hands of a Surgeon,” even though it makes absolutely no sense and has nothing to do with the plot of the musical (I think the song is about mnemonic devices, or about how Goodwin’s character could have been a surgeon but decided her talent was teaching, or maybe just about giving Goodwin a chance to wail). And Goodwin even gets a chance to dance, although it is only at the very end of the show, and for not nearly as long as I would have liked.

I just wish the rest of the musical had been even a quarter as entertaining. Maybe it isn’t fair to expect Fringe musicals to be fully realized, professional productions. But at the very least, I’d hope they would make sense. As best as I could tell, VOTE! is about a high school election for student council president (parallels to the far superior movie Election abound). But Muffin, the main character (gamely played by Bailey Hanks), doesn’t really seem to care much about winning the election. In fact, she doesn’t really participate in the campaign process at all; she seems to prefer looking at and thinking about airplanes. Apparently she wants to be a stewardess? I’m not sure why, or why we should care, but as there were several songs, and even a bit of choreography, that made reference to airplanes, I’m pretty sure Muffin likes them.

VOTE! isn’t awful; the energetic cast is a lot of fun and two cast members I found myself watching a lot were Daniel Robinson and Robbie Fowler. And some of the music is hummable, especially the final song. However, some lyrics could use work, such as “I want to be the villian’s girl, I tried to be good but it made me want to hurl.”

But VOTE! doesn’t work as a musical, unless the point is just to showcase a bunch of random, unconnected songs. For the most part, the book makes absolutely no sense. And when I could figure out what was going on, I didn’t care, because there is little, if any, character development. The production relies on a lot of unnecessary set pieces - why is there a huge blackboard that says “Return Your Textbooks?" And I even found some elements a bit offensive - why can’t the attractive blond cheerleader also be intelligent (spoiler - she cheats). And why does Nikki, the black girl, have to sing a song about how her main goal in life is to be “Just Black Enough?” The song comes out of nowhere, and implies that only black people need be concerned with racial politics.

The whole show just seemed to be thrown together, as if a bunch of high school students developed a musical in a week, each writing a different scene. There is promise here, but the material needs a lot of work. If you’re itching to see Deidre Goodwin perform, VOTE! might be worth checking out. But there are over 200 shows at FringeNYC this year, so if your time is limited, I’d look elsewhere.

(VOTE! A New Musical performs at The Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal and 6th Avenue. Remaining performances are Sunday 8/23 at 3pm and Wednesday 8/26 at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $15. For more show info and tickets visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

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