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'Charlotte Squawks' skewers McCrory, local foibles

By Courtney Devores
Correspondent

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  • Protesters play baseball on Capitol lawn
  • Review

    ‘Charlotte Squawks: Ninesense’

    The ninth edition of the annual satirical musical revue, which takes on everything from politics to the Panthers. Contains adult content and language.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday through June 29.

    Where: Booth Playhouse, 130 N. Tryon St.

    Details: $24.50-$44.50. www.carolinatix.org.



If you’ve never seen a Gov. Pat McCrory version of “Gangnam Style”– and it’s likely you haven’t – the ninth installment of “Charlotte Squawks,” at Booth Playhouse through June 29, is worth the price of a ticket.

Actor Patrick Ratchford performs South Korean K-pop artist Psy’s YouTube sensation as Charlotte’s former mayor, gleefully singing of leaving Charlotte to push a conservative agenda in Raleigh.

For the uninitiated (like myself until Friday’s opening), “Charlotte Squawks” is comic musical parody that skewers local politicians as well as national figures in numbers that would make Weird Al proud. There’s much to laugh at in director and WFAE personality Mike Collins’ ninth “Squawks,” including “Saturday Night Live”- style fake news (where the news sadly isn’t fake) and riffs on local ads will undoubtedly make Morris-Jenkins blush, then fume.

The crowd roared when the Observer’s online paywall got its comeuppance courtesy of Adele’s “Skyfall,” with James Bond-style choreography. During intermission several audience members mentioned to me (of course) it was their favorite of the first half. I heard another explaining the paywall to his date. Not everyone in the crowd will get every joke, but it’s easy to catch on thanks to screens that flash photos, illustrations and other information during the performance.

Much of the credit goes to lyric and book writer Brian Kahn, who cleverly matches local flavor like Mayor Foxx’s streetcar (“Taxing Me, Taxing You” to the tune of “Sweet Caroline”) or the Booty Loop bikers with easily recognizable Broadway and pop tunes. Spoofs of “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” and Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “This Girl Is Mine” are notable standouts.

You can imagine Kahn sitting in traffic on a Friday coming up with the words to “Randolph Road” to the tune of “Country Roads.” The song’s references to avoiding drama on Independence Boulevard, gay-hating cows at Chick-fil-A, and the beacon that is the Krispy Kreme sign got big laughs.

I’d like to see “Squawks” again to catch the lyrics I missed the first time.

The choreography, costumes and props illustrate the show’s strength in creating something smart out of something simple.

For instance, the cast wheels around the stage in office chairs, clutching steering wheels while riffing on John Denver’s tune. Four “Gastonians” wear baggy stonewashed jeans and muscle tees as they twirl Day-Glo guns to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun.”

A portion of the second half is devoted to Charlotte’s flailing sports teams. The best of these suggested the Bobcats/Hornets change its name to the Charlotte Queens and provide a haven for gay players to the tune of “Dancing Queen.”

Only the tribute to “Homeland” (to the tune of Manhattan Transfer’s “Birdland”) seemed weak given its potential. While that one may not be YouTube-worthy, McCrory’s “Governor Style” deserves to go viral, as should “Bye Bye Hostess Cupcakes and Pies.” Lyrically, the ode to Twinkies was a clever high and one national audiences can relate to.

Although some cast members were more enthusiastic about copping Psy’s moves than others, Collins and company sang well (a few of the female cast members have incredible voices) and had fun with it without looking quite like they were flying by the seat of their pants on opening night.

If your entertainment has been relegated to national tours, you won’t be disappointed. It’s fun. It’s fresh. It’s smart – but not too smart.

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