Salute to America and Other Election Year Bloopers

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The Desert Star Playhouse has adapted to its temporary outdoor location like troupers, giving the actors body microphones (which wouldn’t be such a bad idea in their regular theater, actually) and making the audience as much a part of the show as ever.

The bad news is, “Salute to America and Other Election Year Bloopers” suffers from the weakest of plots and an over-long script.

This show is free of the post-show Olio that usually rounds out the DSP experience to 2 hours — and yet the show is still 2 hours. How? Well, the second act, especially, is packed full of Olio-type numbers that are neither funny nor especially entertaining. All they do is slow down the mayhem.

The story is that Penny Print (Kathleen Richardson, over-acting in an embarrassing, Road Show style), a reporter for the Desert Star Gazette Murray News Tribune, is assigned to cover the 2000 presidential campaign. She develops an enemy in Monica Lou Enski (Julie Ann Christensen), a villain who wants to sabotage all the candidates so that the man of her choosing can be president. (Guess who it is.)

So John McCain (Randy Tayler) keeps getting taken hostage, and the others drop out one-by-one. (Orrin Hatch: “I’m busier than a one-legged missionary in a tracting contest.”)

The show is peppered with hilarious moments, and dragged down by dull musical numbers, several of which are mystifyingly pointless. Bill Clinton (Scott Holman, also co-writer and co-director) introduces the show, assuring us that “if you’re like me and you don’t really follow politics,” you’ll still enjoy it.

This is followed by a beauty pageant featuring the main contenders (Al Gore’s hobby: “whittling”), the winner of which, George W. Bush (Holman again), becomes a contestant on “Who Wants to Be the President.”

The stand-out performer is Mary Parker Williams, who plays Elizabeth Dole, a Southern belle, Hillary Clinton and a feisty Primary teacher. Every moment she is onstage, she is hysterical, tossing herself willy-nilly into whatever character she’s playing.

Most of the candidates get their own songs, too, including a highly amusing and tearful number by loser John McCain. Ross Perot (Holman again) and Jesse Ventura (Tayler again) also have a scene that devolves into a water-wienie fight. The scene in which McCain, Bush and Gore (Murphy again) visit an LDS Primary class is classic, particularly with the addition of a marvelously peppy Elian Gonzalez (Jonathon Phipps).

So it’s hit or miss, and more so than usual. The funny moments are indeed funny, but there are too many others that make the show drag on too long. Just like the campaign itself, I guess.

I was so totally over Julie Ann Christensen by this point, though she did look quite fetching as Monica Lou Enski.

This was the first of two shows Desert Star did in the nearby Murray Park, while their own theater was being renovated. Outdoor theater is always a challenge, but they adapted to it very well.

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