By Beatrice Williams-Rude
The official title of the show is “ Trumped! de Blasio to the rescue?” However, a case could be made for calling it “The Triumph of Gabe Pressman.” Gabe, “the dean” of the Inner Circle, played the father of James Madison and gave a full-throated, well sung and meticulously articulated rendition of Sigmund Romberg’s rousing “Stout-Hearted Men, here renamed “Give Me a Pen.” Gabe sang from a wheelchair! (I wonder how many know that “The New Moon,” from which “Stout-Hearted Men is taken is a paean to the French Revolution.)
The high point of Bill de Blasio rebuttal segment was Anthony Atamaniuk’s portrayal of Donald Trump. At first sight one was stunned and wondered how Mayor de Blasio had managed to inveigle the notoriously thin-skinned and MSM-averse POTUS to participate in a spoof.
But first a word about the Inner Circle, a political writers’ association. It started as an all-male newspapermen’s group which kept a very low profile. Locating it could be challenging. It expanded to include electronic journalists and women. The annual dinner and lampoon—this is its 95th—was not something ambitious pols could afford to miss, the steep price tag notwithstanding.( Profits go to charities, which are listed on the program.) For a wannabe anything, it was better to be ridiculed than ignored.
The theme of this year’s Inner Circle lampoon was Mayor de Blasio’s quest for a second term and all the wannabes attempting to impede him, not least of which was Hillary Clinton, who was strongly and stridently played by Juliet Papa. There were a number of zingers in both the show and the rebuttal referencing the fractious relationship between the mayor and Mrs. Clinton.
Rich Lamb was an appealing Mayor de Blasio; Larry Sutton, a hilarious Darth Vader; Tony Guida, an effective President Trump. Shelly Strickler , in addition to her massive duties directing the passionate amateurs, which she again executed spectacularly—akin to herding cats?—was a delightful Marla Maples.
The first musical number that really brought down the house was a take on “I Feel Pretty” (West Side Story) here, “We Feel Pretty” sung by Police Commissioner James O’Neill (Philip O’Brien), Pat Lynch (Robert Hardt) and Cops (male and female),
Much mirth with former mayors Michael Bloomberg (Andrew Siff) and Rudolph Giuliani (Courtney Gross). The El Chapo vignette was a delight what with references to “cheap American labor” that took 100 years to build the Second Ave. subway!
As has become usual, Donald Trump sucks all the oxygen in any venue. “The Lady Is a Trump,” sung by Melania (Melissa Russo); “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” sung by the Trump kids: Ivanka (Lynne White), Donald Jr.(CJ Papa), Eric (Mickey Carroll) and Tiffany(Irene Cornell). Kudos to the technical department for the marvelous use of Trump’s tweets.
Great huzzahs for musical director Kathy Beaver. The use of the “Russian Sailors’ Dance” from Glière’s The Red Poppy at the opening Russian sequence was nothing short of inspired.
The mayor’s segment was infinitely better than last year’s effort. Featured were Ben Stiller; Julie Halston, who reprised her Upper East Side doyenne with panache, the “Broadway dancers” who set the tone with “I need This Job” from A Chorus Line.
Mayor de Blasio, in his final remarks, was graciousness itself.
There was a new venue this year, The Sheraton Times Square, and while there were a few glitches all was resolved–in large measure thanks to the efforts of always pleasant and smiling Melanie McEvoy who was on top of everything. Inner Circle President Terry Sheridan noted that the show had been at the Hilton since 1964 and went on to refer to its days at the Astor.
During those days women couldn’t become members and female guests were confined to the balcony and not permitted to sit with the men, not even publisher Dolly Schiff, who owned the New York Post. Now women even, upon occasion, play male roles.
One of the games people play at the Inner Circle requires studying the seating list to see who’s sitting with whom and how many tables the politically ambitions take. For example, when John (Gristedes) Catsimatides is pondering a run for mayor, he generally takes three, which he did this time—and he was mentioned in the show.
All Photos:© 2017 Staton Rabin (Final Dress Rehearsal)