November 19, 1998
Life Imitating Art
'Of Thee I Sing' depicts scandal inside the White House; sound familiar?
"Of Thee I Sing" is a show for the ages. It reminds old timers that even the Depression year of 1931 had its fun side. For more recent arrivals, it's an uncanny allegory on presidential high jinx in the year 1998. And for everybody who has a toe to tap and a shower to sing in, it brings back the songs and lyrics of the Gershwin brothers at the top of their incredible form.
The first musical to ever win a Pulitzer Prize, "Of Thee I Sing" features President Wintergreen, who runs on a platform of "Love is Sweeping the Country," is being sued by a jilted Southern belle, and is threatened with impeachment by Congress.
Life waited 67 years after the show's premiere to imitate art, but when it finally caught up, such a 1931 throwaway line as "This is the Oval Office, where the president discharges his official duties" brings down the house (House?) in 1998.
As the final offering in the current "Reprise!" season, the slimmed-down version of "Of Thee I Sing" at UCLA's Freud Playhouse retains its glorious melodies and biting satire, performed with appropriate gusto and straight face by a talented company.
Even for the tone-deaf, there is Charlie Dell as Vice President Alexander Throttlebottom, the ultimate nebbish of the American stage; Heather Lee is the jilted blonde; and Jason Graae as the parody incarnate of a French ambassador. Gregory Harrison and Maureen McGovern essay the lead roles of Wintergreen and his chosen first lady.
The show runs until Nov. 22 and tickets are scarce. Call (310) 825-2101 or any Ticketmaster outlet.