‘Charlotte Squawks’ returns with bigger show, more satirical hits than misses

The cast of “Charlotte Squawks: The 11th Glower”
The cast of “Charlotte Squawks: The 11th Glower” LunahZon Photography

A shopaholic girl group dressed in disco-era duds sings “No! No! No!” at the possible sale of Belk.

A jersey-wearing chorus purporting to be the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line turns Queen’s “We Will Rock You” into “We Can’t Block You.”

And Gov. Pat McCrory, behind the wheel in a video takeoff on Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln ads, cruises Charlotte after dark, musing about everything from all the apartments going up to all the mayors Charlotte has had in the six short years since he led the Queen City.

These inspired bits of music and comedy are among the many hits in Charlotte’s 11th annual satirical revue, this year called “Charlotte Squawks: The 11th Glower.”

The show, which has become a must-see for news junkies, has more than a few misses as well. Skits that go after easy national targets such as Uber, Netflix binges and close-minded partisans on the right and left start flat and end that way.

But when “Squawks” takes aim at anything about Charlotte or North Carolina, it usually hits a bull’s eye. And those are the numbers that tend to get the biggest laughs, cheers and applause – at least, judging from Thursday’s show.

For those who want to keep track, the program offers an A-to-Z list of the butts of their jokes. These “special appearances” start with American Airlines and end with Brian Williams, that fib-of-a-TV-anchor who is shown onscreen with a sign that reads “And then I asked Jesus ... Can I carry the cross?”

As always, the heart of the revue is a series of mocking skits that marry old songs with funny new titles and lyrics.

This year, author-lyricist Brian Kahn has served up 24 song-and-dance parodies for director Mike Collins and his talented, immensely likeable cast.

Among the best: To lampoon the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board’s love-hate relationship with ex-Superintendent Heath Morrison, Kahn redid the songs of The Doors and Jim Morrison. To the tune of “Light My Fire,” a bewigged Alan Morgan as Supt. Heath Morrison musically explains his sudden exit in “Gonna Quit Before I’m Fired.”

There is satirical sting in “Debate Transgender” (think The Platters’ “The Great Pretender”), which skewers the Charlotte City Council’s vote against a bill that would have legally protected LGBT persons from discrimination. And in “Don’t Have to Wash Your Hands,” Patrick Ratchford and Robbie Jaeger channel the Beatles in a hilarious send-up of rookie U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis’ claim that the free market, not government regulators, should decide hygiene practices for restaurants.

There are many other pleasures: The crazy-funny costumes in a “Wizard of Oz” parody that makes fun of The Charlotte Observer, among others; the office-furniture-on-wheels choreography in “Randolph Road”; Johanna Jowett’s dead-on impersonation of an all-business airline announcer in “They’ll Never Call Your Zone”; and a Billy Joel-inspired number bemoaning the closing of the Penguin restaurant – fried pickles and all – that showcases affecting musical solos by saxophonist Jack Murray and pianist Jeana Neal Borman.

I wish the Squawkers’ skit on the General Assembly’s move to the right was funnier and more sophisticated – name-calling is not satire – and it got tiring having to chose between watching the performers onstage and checking out concurrent sight gags and video punchlines on the TV screen.

But whenever the show has a true video highlight, the producers are smart enough to darken the stage and let us focus. We get a smart parody of “Star Wars,” complete with this year’s mayoral candidates wielding light sabers. And the audience loved the return of a certain team of heating-and-air conditioning repair men in a takeoff of a local TV ad.

Best of all was McCrory, whose self-deprecating star turn is smooth and amusing. He might consider Hollywood if his run in Raleigh is cut short in 2016.

Funk: 704-358-5703


‘Charlotte Squawks’

The annual revue, “The 11th Glower,” tackles targets local, statewide and national.

WHEN: Through June 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Also 3 p.m. June 28.

WHERE: Booth Playhouse, 130 N. Tryon St.

RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes.

TICKETS: $24.50-49.50.

DETAILS: 704-372-1000 or blumenthalarts.org.