Part of the success of Charlotte Squawks must be due to our citys general inability to smile at itself. The few people in high positions that Ive encountered mercifully briefly seem to have all the humility and good humor of al-Qaidas public relations team. So the desire to pull down blowhards and weasels in sports, politics, religion and banking circles is irresistible, and a near-capacity crowd at Booth Playhouse Friday appreciated that effort.
Narrator-producer Mike Collins and producer-author-lyricist Brian Kahn have softened the show slightly since last year. (I have seen only two, so thats as far back as I go.)
8 Misbehavin is more rib-tickling than butt-kicking, more zinging than stinging. There are even sentimental moments, like a song where Barack Obama wonders what happened to his mojo and Michelle tells him not to worry: Mitt Romneys such a zombie that nobody wants him. (Bobby Tyson and Terry Henry were born for these parts.)
The eighth effort in this annual series sets a wry tone with its pre-recorded opening, as usual. Former county commission chair Jennifer Roberts, ousted by Harold Cogdills back-door deal with Republicans, urges us, Check your ticket stubs. I know youre thinking, Its not a big deal to take someone elses seat. Well, it is. Susan Knowlson then does an on-target impression of Roberts, belting Im Not Wild About Harold.
Former mayor Pat McCrory gets his innings twice: in a clever taped introduction to the second half and the alluring I Will Govern You, where Patrick Ratchford does a dead-on McCrory and the gubernatorial candidate himself dons sunglasses in a video for a come-on to the ladies who vote.
Some of the numbers feel obligatory: The writers cant really find a way to tease gridiron messiah Cam Newton but have to drop him in anyhow, and Greek Crisis (cleverly choreographed by Linda Booth in the style of Greased Lightnin) seems like a stretch.
Pieces on Newt Gingrich and Occupy Wall Street/Charlotte, both well-performed, now flog deceased horses. And Kahn absolutely needs to work harder to find rhymes that dont end in suck or the alternative that begins with f.
The creators parody a mix of musical numbers dating from a century ago up to this year. Theyre not afraid to be obscure: Whoever knew Eubie Blakes Im Just Wild About Harry probably doesnt know Adeles Rolling in the Deep, and vice versa. Alan Morgan sings Stars, about the Bobcats failure to hire any, with the passion of Javert lamenting his fate, but the song wasnt one of the hits from Les Miserables.
The newscast segment with Collins and Tyson seemed herky-jerky. (The latter appeared unprepared for repartee.) The one with Collins and Maret Decker Seitz worked better, as her barbs carved him up deftly.
Besides a YMCA homage called Why Not Wed Gays? which earned the nights loudest roar of audience approval the shows crowning glories were the finales. Act One ended with Henry intoning Circle of Bikes as if calling for vengeance from the God of Automobiles, Lion King-style, on riders who clog our streets.
And Convention., a grand number with Fiddler on the Roof-style narration and dancing, spoofed Tradition and speared the pomposity and paranoia surrounding the Democratic National Convention. Of course, the upcoming DNC is a good thing, a wonderful thing, for our fair and shining city. But as we know, sometimes you can have too much of those. I expect Squawks #9 to remind us of that next year.