The 5 Best Randy Rainbow Parodies
Broadway's favorite political satirist is a YouTube sensation.
Randy Rainbow is a creature of Broadway. Having hosted Tony parties in the Theater District for years, he's become a fixture of the cabaret scene. Last year, he presented the Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Adaptation and Revue; and in September, he is set to star in Laramie: A Legacy, a benefit reading of The Laramie Project that will also feature Neil Patrick Harris and Mary-Louise Parker.
He's gained his widest audience, however, through his online music videos lampooning American politics. The tunes are mostly drawn from the Broadway songbook, with biting new lyrics that will have you in stiches even if you've never heard the original songs. For many, Randy Rainbow has become essential viewing in this period of political tumult.
As evidenced by Broadway tunes like "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" from South Pacific and "I Believe" from The Book of Mormon, songs are a particularly effective method of political subversion, especially when one weds clever lyrics to melodies that you can't get out of your head. Artists as disparate as Stephen Foster, Bertolt Brecht, and Woody Guthrie understood that, as have the best cabaret performers of the last century. With the help of YouTube and Facebook, Randy Rainbow projects his underground Kabarett onto our iPhone screens and into our musical-theater-loving hearts. Here are his five best acts:
1. A Very Stable Genius
Critic Lytton Strachey once predicted that the satirical operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan would be the most enduring achievement of the Victorian Age, a subject about which he knew a thing or two. Cue Randy Rainbow and one of his most popular videos to date: the Major General Song from the 1880 megahit The Pirates of Penzance, retrofitted for the "very stable genius" currently sitting in the White House. Arthur Sullivan's bouncing melody is an ideal setting for the stinging and densely packed lyrics of both W.S. Gilbert and, now, Randy Rainbow. Donald Trump may not be a latter-day Disraeli or Gladstone, but I suspect that the duo behind HMS Pinafore and The Mikado would have been delighted to know that their songs are still giving politicians indigestion 138 years on.
Randy Rainbow's first viral breakthrough came in the heat of the 2016 debates, when candidate Trump deployed a word that left the folks at Merriam-Webster scratching their heads. This parody of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins basks in the lunacy of this new word (reminder, Shakespeare made them up too) while exploring several other choice adjectives. He incredulously asks, "Ummm, are you really gonna vote for this guy?" Six weeks later, 63 million Americans responded yes.
Lest you think it's all just salty digs at Donald Trump, this rollicking number conveys a positively inspiring message. It is adapted from the Lee Adams and Charles Strouse musical Bye Bye Birdie and celebrates the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who faced the tragedy of a school shooting, shook off the thoughts and prayers, and decided to get to work. As millennials are poised to become the largest voting bloc in the United States, this modified Broadway ditty feels like a prescient anthem of things to come.
4. GOP Dropout
Way back during the 2016 Republican primary, Randy Rainbow borrowed this tune from Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's Grease to send off Senator Ted Cruz after his bitter defeat at the hands of Donald Trump. He made similar videos for nearly all of the candidates, impressively showcasing the durability of the melody while mixing up his vocal delivery. They're all worth watching, but this one is a personal favorite, mostly for its smart use of video and the way the lyrics practically write themselves. Special thanks to Ted Cruz for that!
Randy Rainbow's newest video pairs the president's nemesis-in-chief, Omarosa Manigault Newman, with a Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. With the force of a gale sweeping down the plain, it brilliantly captures the ambivalence surrounding her revelations about Trump — disclosures that are unlikely to change anything, but that we still crave like junkies looking for our next fix. It also made me really excited to see the sexy revival of Oklahoma! playing St. Ann's Warehouse this fall. But that's the essence of Randy Rainbow's art, a glittering symbiosis between American democracy and musical theater.