Gershwin and politics -- a winning, witty partnership

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

"Mr. Gershwin Goes to Washington" arrives in town at the optimum moment. The adaptation of the three political satires by the Gershwin brothers comes to the Kennedy Center replete with showstoppers sung by stars of Broadway, opera and TV and hosted by an announcer familiar to news junkies. The keyboard accompanists are composer Joseph Thalken and Steven Blier, the artistic director of the New York Festival of Song. The script, by Laurence Maslon, ties words and music together with accuracy.

Composer George Gershwin and his brother, lyricist Ira, were first-generation Americans fascinated by politics and amused by the slapstick characters contrived by Gilbert and Sullivan. The show's humor was ahead of its 1927 opening, so the team of the Gershwins and dramatist George S. Kaufman put it away for three years until a revision struck all the right chords.

"The music is evergreen, and the plot that was relevant in the '30s seems brand-new today," Blier said. "Laurence's script is rather brilliantly put together, and the lyrics play into the Gershwins' fascination for Gilbert and Sullivan in their approach to rhyme, humor and dance. Once you have a rhymed couplet, you feel in control, and every thought seems manageable when it's rhymed. Some of the songs in this show aren't heard as often as others. My favorite sleeper, 'A Kiss for Cinderella,' is about Bill Clinton bidding farewell to all the girls he loves."

Audiences love the fact that six comedy roles are played by one actor, David Garrison. Many know him as Steve Rhoades on "Married With Children" and have seen him in numerous television shows and on Broadway. His characters vie for laughs with Tony nominee and Helen Hayes winner Marc Kudisch as John P. Wintergreen and Met diva Anne-Carolyn Bird as Mary Turner. Lauren Worsham plays Diana Devereaux with a mischievous, comic flair, while NPR regular Carl Kasell, the official judge and scorekeeper on the weekly news quiz show, "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me," keeps the action flowing as the host and narrator.

Onstage
'Mr. Gershwin Goes to Washington'
Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Info: $45; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org

"Even though the music in 'Mr. Gershwin Goes to Washington' is not new, it lives again in this historic theater-piece format that is as fresh and wonderful today as it was 80 years ago."

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Emily Cary

Special to The Washington Examiner
The Washington Examiner