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Good Newsical

John Walton West, Christina Bianco, and Christine Pedi in NEWSICAL

Back in the day, there were lots of revues that used then-current events and politics as fodder for sharp humor. Now, such commodities are rare. But it happens that one of the best examples of the genre — if not THE best — is playing at the Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row. It’s called Newsical the Musical, and the fact that this production has been running for more than a year should give you an idea of what a crowd-pleaser the show is.

Written by comic genius Rick Crom and directed by Mark Waldrop (one of the best in the business), with first-rate musical direction by Ed Goldschneider, Newsical boasts a small cast of some of the most talented performers on the planet, including four honored veterans of Forbidden Broadway: Christina Bianco, Amy Griffin, Christine Pedi, and Michael West. Rounding out the company is John Walton West — no relation to Michael, except that they’re both hilarious. The level of talent in this show is so amazing that even the understudy, Tommy Walker, is a Broadway caliber performer. (I saw him go on, so you can take my word for it.)

One of the reasons why Newsical is a hit is that it keeps changing; Crom is an endless font of creativity, always ready to put his own spin on the latest hot-button issue or event in a witty sketch or song and hand it to Waldrop, Goldschneider, and the cast for insertion into a show that’s filled to the brim with topical humor. For example: When, earlier this year, there were news reports of sweet old ladies being subjected to intrusive body searches at airports for “security” reasons, it didn’t take the Newsical folks more than a week or so to translate that into a funny-because-it’s-true song with the immortal lyric “I got felt-up at the airport, and I loved it!” as its hook. (See photo.)

The show targets actors, singers, politicians, and celebuturds of all stripes, so chances are that whenever you attend, you’re going to see several of your favorites (or least favorites) skewered. It should be noted that Newsical is an equal opportunity spoof machine, going after Republicans (the Bushes, the Palins), Democrats (Obama, Gore, both Clintons), et al. with equal fervor.  Among the big-name entertainers who have been mercilessly ribbed in the show are Liza and Gaga, Joan Rivers, Celine Dion, and the insufferable Dr. Phil. Perhaps best of all, Pedi does a wickedly spot-on Oprah impression that had me and the rest of the audience laughing so hysterically, I thought several of us were going to require medical attention. My advice is, bring along an oxygen mask and a defibrillator, and have a blast!