The new musical Vote!, at the Minetta Lane Theatre, has several Broadway actors involved, including Bailey Hanks, Deidre Goodwin, and Morgan Karr, but don't expect to see this clunker about high school electoral politics on the Great White Way any time soon -- or at all. Featuring book and lyrics by Ryann Ferguson with music and additional lyrics by Steven Jamail, the show is a misguided mess.
The central conflict is between cheerleader Muffin (Hanks) and nerd Mark (Karr), who are running against each other for school President. The piece features dirty tricks (Nixon is one of Mark's heroes), ethical conundrums, questions of popularity versus experience -- and with the emergence of third candidate Nikki (Sasha Sloan), issues of race. Unfortunately, subpar dialogue and flatly drawn characters don't allow the show to achieve much complexity.
The music is serviceable, but not particularly memorable, although Mark's seductive duet with Muffin's best friend Trish (Nina Sturtz), "Time Doesn't Solve Problems," is catchy and allows Karr to showcase his charm and comic sensibility. Hanks, best known for winning MTV's Legally Blonde reality TV contest (and then playing Elle Woods on Broadway), disappoints as Muffin. While she looks fabulous in Nicky Smith's costumes, her portrayal is one-dimensional and she occasionally strays from notes in her upper register. Goodwin commands the stage as high school teacher Ms. Venora Fowler, but she doesn't have a lot to work with in terms of fleshing out her character.
The musical seems to want to spoof America's larger electoral process while still upholding the basic tenets of democratic elections. But it treats its subject matter too simplistically for social critique, and isn't funny enough to be an effective satire.
-- Dan Bacalzo