Ellie MacPherson and Band


By Myra Chanin


Ellie MacPherson is young, pretty, sweet, charming, wry and clever. She’s an American patriot, the proud daughter and sister of US Army officers who loves America “even though lately it’s frustrated the hell out of me!” Alas, more and more of us feel exactly the same way. Ellie graduated from Rutgers with honors in English and History and continued her education at the New School where she earned an MFA in acting and played Sally Bowles in their production of Cabaret. Her considerable natural talent and acquired skills are charmingly displayed in her recent cabaret show at the Yotel’s Green Room 42. In “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” Ellie creates a fun, funny and (gulp!) scary classroom that takes us on a journey through the lives of the 45 men – ugh, yes, all men, so far — who have held the highest office in the land.

Ellie tells the whole truth, actually more warts than all, as she chronicles the sometimes more weird than human aspects of our commanders in chief, accompanied by 16 songs that best illustrate the way she feels about one-third of them. She’s a delightful performer, a vision of joy, singing and commenting about the peculiarities of our best and brightest as well as our least noteworthy leaders. Every member of the audience seemed to be highly entertained by her doings on stage and by her eclectic song list which had something for everyone from Sondheim to Radiohead to Classic Americana.

Ellie stepped on stage, young and innocent in virginal white on the night of the 45th Potus’s 72nd birthday. She opened the show with a slightly less lurid version of Marilyn Monroe’s sexsational birthday greeting to JFK at Madison Square Garden where 15,000 tuxedoed ward-heelers were so busy panting at the dress she’d been sewn into to care if Marilyn was singing on key. The First Lady? Jackie was wisely spending the day with her children at the Loudon Hunt Horse Show where she didn’t have to look at a horse’s ass. When Ellie inquired who wanted to join her in an encore of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” in honor of President Trump, the ensuing silence was deafening.


(L) Kayla Berghoff as Jackie O – (R) Ellie MacPherson


Ellie’s favorite Prez was Honest George, first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen. Ellie also answered the unanswered question? No, Virginia, his false teeth were NOT made of wood. The father of our country may also have been first in dental transplantation. His friend, the French dentist Le Mayeur, appears as a Mount Vernon expenditure for the purchase of somebody’s human teeth which were attached to a removable bridge which did not allow George to either talk or eat. Ellie honored George’s oral pain with the Tina Turner hit, “Simply the Best,” a tune, I presume, that dates back to the period before Ike started beating her.

Ellie described John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as competitive frenemies, at loggerheads about how governmental power should be dispensed. Adams believed in a strong federal authority. Jefferson was a big states righter. Their song, Irving Berlin’s “Anything You can Do I Can do Better,” with tweaked lyrics went beyond Annie Oakley and Frank Butler’s sharpshooting competitions. Ellie’s John Adams thanked Jake McCready for his brief service as Jefferson.

James Madison who followed Jefferson also believed in states’ rights. His most memorable act may have been his marriage to merry widow, Dolley Payne Todd, who created the role of First Lady, was the first to serve ice cream in the White House and increased Madison’s popularity.

My drink, a sensational Campari and Soda, arrived while Monroe was writing his doctrine, and I was learning that a butt-naked John Quincy Adams swam the Potomac every morning. Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson was no friend to Native Americans, but could disarm a gunslinger with one flip of his whip. He married the woman he loved before she had dissolved her ties with her former mate. Buchanan was the only unmarried President and he may have been the only gay one. He shared his closet with his buddy, Senator Rufus King. They were known as Aunt Nancy and Miss Fancy.

What shocked me most about our first presidents was their longevity. Every one of them between Adams and Van Buren with the exception of Monroe lived into at least their late seventies as a time when living past the age of 70 was considered immortality. Sounds like presidenting was not a trying job and well worth getting.

Ellie MacPherson has a big Broadway voice, a ton of charm and a historian’s knack for unearthing bizarre information. She’s well worth seeing and hearing, especially if you’ve ever sought the answers to the following questions:

Which president never voted before he became president? Was indentured to a tailor and made his own suits? Called his member, Jumbo or Big Steve? Married his 12-year-old ward when she (whew!) reached the age of 21? Spoke Mandarin? Played 900 rounds of Golf during his presidency?

Ellie ends the show with my favorite Billy Joel ballad, “Summer, Highland Falls.” Its refrain — “It’s either sadness or euphoria”— seems to be a perfect summation for our troubled times.

My euphoria comes from the fact that Ellie MacPherson will be reprising this show on October 17th at Feinstein’s 54Below. I left with a smile on my face and every time I think of it, I’m find myself smiling. Ellie songs choices are diverse and fascinating. Keep her in mind for your Fall entertainment.

Photos: Myra Chanin

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