Rod Blagojevich Superstar
Second City, Chicago
“Given the nature of the real-life Rod Blagojevich debacle, I thought there would be nothing left for the parodists,” said Hedy Weiss in the Chicago Sun-Times. After all, the helmet-haired former Illinois governor was taped trying to sell Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat. He allegedly threatened funding for a children’s hospital, tampered with our beloved Cubs, and went on a surreal post-impeachment talk-show tour. It seemed like a classic case of “real life outdistancing even the most outrageous dramatization.” But the mischief-makers at Second City have “seized the day” with a quickly crafted spoof. Borrowing heavily from musicals like Godspell! and Jesus Christ Superstar, this hour-long comedy will give “even the most disgusted citizen-taxpayer” a chortle.
Blago’s antics “were golden for Second City’s writers,” said Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. From the opening lyric, “Rod Blagojevich Superstar / Are you as nuts as we think you are?” through songs like “Pay to Play” and a particularly profane little ditty sung by Blago’s wife, Patti, this is political satire at it’s most “deliciously unsubtle.” Joey Bland, in a wig that’s outrageous yet absolutely true to coif, plays Blago with “surprising heart.” Bland succeeds by being goofy rather than pathetic in scenes such as the one in which the governor compliments his eventual selection for senator, Roland Burris, on his “strategy for courting the African-American vote”—i.e., being African-American. And Lori McClain gets a laugh out of every curse word in her turn as Patti.
“The show has plenty of unpatched potholes and shows all the signs of being rushed to the stage,” said Steven Oxman in Variety. Still, the feeling that it was thrown together is part of its charm. Blagojevich, with his cravings for cash and the spotlight, would undoubtedly appreciate this transparent attempt to trade on his notoriety. The characters, meanwhile, are “only mild exaggerations of the real figures”: Since Burris actually has built an elaborate shrine to himself, the actor who plays him, Sam Richardson, “need only put on a little false humility” to evoke a laugh. While the show will probably have a pretty short shelf life, given the unpredictability of these characters, who knows? It could turn out to have “greater legs than Burris’ senate career.”