International City Theatre (ICT).
When presidential front-runner
Reed Chandler suddenly dies during sex with his mistress, his Oval
Office-obsessed widow (a delicious Alix Corey) sets her sights on their
decidedly deficient but photogenic son, Cal (the vocally- and
physically-gifted Adam Simmons), as the new candidate. With the aid of
Reed's polio-afflicted but politically-experienced brother, Grahame (a
superb Sal Mistretta, who theatre buffs may recognize as Pirelli in the
home video version of Sweeney Todd with George Hearn and Angela Lansbury), Cal's unlikely rise to power begins.
The musical's book and score (by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe, who went on to adapt The Witches of Eastwick as
a musical for Mackintosh) aren't the greatest, leaving virtually no
scandalous-cliche stone unturned: adultery, drug abuse, questionable
paternity, mob ties, affairs with strippers, and even a creepy touch of
homosexual incest. A couple of these would have been adequate. It
also features only one particularly memorable tune (the seductive "I See
the Future," which is brilliantly staged here) while at least two
songs, "First Came Mercy" and "The Ballad of Bobby 'Cracker' Barrel,"
are redundant and/or excessive (though "Ballad" is undeniably amusing).
aside, this is a superior production boasting an excellent cast. ICT director Randy Brenner definitely elevates the material, with strong
support provided by choreographer Heather Castillo and musical director
Darryl Archibald. This is one of only a handful of U.S. mountings of The Fix
since an initial, 1998 staging in Virginia where, interestingly,
Mistretta first played Grahame. ICT has wisely, economically pared the
cast down to nine actors from an original count of 19. Also, while The Fix is billed as a rock musical, Archibald's handling of the score is more subdued in its current Long Beach presentation.
Gifford's scenic design evokes the center ring of a circus, and is
beautifully lit by Donna Ruzika. It is the very talented, totally game
cast, though, that truly makes this production soar. In addition to the
previously mentioned Simmons, Corey and Mistretta, William T. Lewis is
most effective as the observant ghost of Chandler Sr., Melanie Fernandez
sizzles as Cal's stripper-lover, Carrie St. Louis is great as Cal's
Nicole Kidman-esque wife, and David Michael Laffey is terrific in a
variety of roles but especially as Bobby "Cracker" Barrel. The
remaining cast members, who are deserving of equal mention and praise,
are Jay Donnell and Stephanie Hayslip.
Not unlike our two chief options in the 2012 presidential race, The Fix is less than perfect but nonetheless demands consideration thanks to ICT.
Reverend's Rating: B
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.