Painting the White House Blue, Monica! The Musical Premieres Sept. 21-Oct. 2 in NYMF

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21 Sep 2005

"American Idol" castoff Frenchie Davis plays President Bill Clinton's White House secretary Betty Currie in the Sept. 21 world premiere of Monica! The Musical! — a show that started as a joke but expanded to a full production as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival.



The frisky musical about the sexual scandal involving Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky has been seen in developmental stagings, including a May 2005 workshop in Manhattan.

NYMF and P73 Productions, Inc. present the latest production at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Sept. 21-Oct. 2.

Casey Hushion directs the show, which has book and lyrics by Daniel J. Blau and Tracie Potochnik, music by Adam Blau and musical direction by Nadia DiGiallonardo.

"We began work on this show during the scandal proper, completely as a joke," co-creator Blau told Playbill.com. "We made up character lists that were pages long, assembled imaginary casts of actors living and dead, cartoon characters, whatever. We spent so much time just trying to make each other laugh that the first draft of the show stretched 158 pages and had something like 35 songs. Between that and the subject matter, our first instinct was to publish it as the first installment in a series of books entitled 'Plays You Can't Perform.' It wasn't until Adam wrote the first song that we really started to think this could be a full-fledged musical. And it was from there that the first step of our development process really began."

The cast features Christine DiGiallonardo (Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Delacorte Theater) as Monica, Megan Lawrence (Urinetown) as Hillary, Duke LaFoon (I Love My Wife, The Audience) as Bill Clinton, Rashad Naylor (Hairspray) as Vernon Jordan, Frenchie Davis ("American Idol," Rent and regional stagings of Dreamgirls) as Betty Currie, Kristie Dale Sanders (Urinetown) as Janet Reno, Charlie Pollock (Urinetown) as Ken Starr and Josh Walden (La Cage Aux Folles, 42nd Street) as George Stephanopoulos.

Monica! "dares to ask one crucial question: Exactly how did something this ridiculous happen?," according to production notes.

(Another question the casting announcement prompts is: Would Ms. Currie ever view herself as a power pop belter worthy of "American Idol"? Frenchie Davis was kicked off TV's pop-vocalist contest show by producers.)

The show serves "a generous helping of irreverent absurdity, libelous implications and insight that only time can bring. This bold satire mixes past and present D.C. politics with the best (and sometimes worst) of musical theatre as it examines our relationship to tabloid scandal, partisan crackpots and that barrel of Beltway monkeys."

Do the writers bash the Clintons in the show?

"Though we make our fair share of jokes at their expense, we really have a lot of affection and respect for the Clintons and their administration," co-creator Tracie Potochnik told Playbill.com. "They were young and fun and interesting and flawed, which is part of what makes them such great characters. Monica! relies on a fair share of historical inaccuracies, because we wouldn't dare try to get in their heads or lives to figure out what was actually going on the whole time. We've put them in situations that are riotous, overblown and unbelievable, but we have a sneaking suspicion that the real story would be even more outrageous."

Lighting is by Jason Lyons (Nerds at NYMF) and props/scenic design is by Seth Sklar Heyn.

The Monica! performance schedule is Sept. 21 at 9 PM, Sept. 22 at 4:30 PM, Sept. 24 at 1 PM, Sept. 25 at 1 PM, Sept. 28 at 7 PM, Oct. 2 at 1 PM.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is located at 307 W. 26th Street at the corner of Eighth Avenue. Tickets are $15, available by calling (212) 352-3101 or www.TheaterMania.com or www.nymf.org.

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Daniel J. Blau, Tracie Potochnik and Adam Blau have been working on Monica! The Musical since 1998. Staged reading has been presented by Manhattan Theatre Club and the New York Musical Theater Festival. Long Island natives Adam and Daniel J. Blau are brothers who split their time between New York and L.A., while Tracie Potochnik resides in Providence, Rhode Island.

Founded in 1997 by Nicole Fix, Liz Jones, Asher Richelli, and Daniel Shiffman, P73 Productions, Inc. is "committed to developing and producing the work of emerging playwrights." Since its inception, P73 has helped develop works by Peter Ackerman, Peter Morris, Julia Jordan, Karen Hartman, Michael Friedman and many others. Works developed by P73 have moved on to productions at Primary Stages, New York's Women's Project and Productions, Baltimore's Center Stage and San Francisco's Magic Theater.

P73 won the Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award for its work on The Unknown by Janet Allard, Shane Rettig, and Jean Randich, which will also be presented in the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival. For more information visit www.p73.org.

For more information visit www.monicathemusical.com.