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Review: Five: The Parody Musical Is Significantly Less Than Six

A new off-Broadway musical attempts (and fails) to skewer Trump’s women.

Anyae Anasia, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Hannah Bonnett, and Gabi Garcia star in Five: The Parody Musical, directed by Jen Wineman, at Theater 555.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

Laughter is the best medicine, and I truly believe the comedians will lead us out of this dour era, which has seen frequent bouts of civil unrest, a deadly pandemic, a slew of McCarthyite “cancellations,” and the reign of the worst president in the history of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump. A musical send-up of the women in Trump’s orbit, Five: The Parody Musical, would seem to be just what the doctor ordered as we face the prospect of yet another Trump administration. So why wasn’t I laughing?

The concept is sound enough: Ivana Trump (Anyae Anasia), Marla Maples (Gabriella Joy Rodriguez), Melania Trump (Jaime Lyn Beatty), Ivanka Trump (Hannah Bonnett), and Stormy Daniels (Gabi Garcia) have gathered for a concert-cum-competition to determine which of them got the worst deal (poor Tiffany, the Jan Brady of the Bedminster Bunch, is once again excluded). It’s essentially Six, the musical megahit about the wives of Henry VIII, but with Trump (thumbs up to the legal counsel who advised the creators to affix a clunky disclaimer to the title).

While Six takes the form of an imaginary Spice Girls concert at Caesars Palace, Five feels more like a drag show far off the Vegas strip, with a set (by David Goldstein) salvaged from an abandoned Tom Lehrer bus-and-truck tour. “Make America slay again,” a banner lamely pronounces from above the stage, our first indication of the level of comedy we’re about to endure.

“Divorced! Gave head! Fired,” the women sing one-by-one at the top of the show in a send-up of the opening of Six. “A 90-minute show, same set and scene / Broadway is boring us with Henry’s queens.” Writers Shimmy Braun (book and lyrics), Moshiel Newman Daphna (book and lyrics), and Bill Recce (music and lyrics) don’t just limit their satire to Six, but offer shout-outs to Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and Chicago. Wildly contorted on stage chairs, the women sing:

“This is the Don Dump Tango.
Just like the one they have in that Bob Fosse play.
And though our jokes might hang low,
The Don Dump Tango
Is what we sing as we wish
We could blow that orange bitch away.”

Three lyricists and that’s the best they can do? I can imagine finding all this hilarious if I were flying on Paxlovid and an eight-hour MSNBC binge; but in a state of sobriety, Five scores a four out of 10. The jokes generally hit three points: Donald Trump is orange, he has a small penis, and he likes getting peed on. This is territory that our overpopulated heard of late-night hosts have already stomped to death — without asking audiences to fork over the price of an off-Broadway ticket.

Gabi Garcia, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Gabriella Joy Rodriguez, Anyae Anasia, and Hannah Bonnett star in Five: The Parody Musical, directed by Jen Wineman, at Theater 555.
(© Jeremy Daniel)

The few genuinely funny moments in Five spring entirely from Jen Wineman’s adequate production — her choreography is both simplistic and sloppily executed, which is funny in its own way — and the ingenuity of the actors.

None of them remotely look or sound like their characters, but specific and committed performances still provoke laughter: Rodriguez delivers a highly caffeinated and homicidally smiley Marla, a startling take accentuated by Florence D’Lee’s choice to costume her like Tonya Harding. Riffing on the script’s treatment of all Eastern Europeans as essentially interchangeable, Anasia comes up with some memorable line readings: “I signed four! Four prenuptial agreements…ah, ah, ah,” she staccatos like the Count from Sesame Street. She’s doing her job.

So is Jasmine Rice Labeija, who appears late in the show as Hillary Clinton to deliver an insane medley of lightly altered Broadway showstoppers. Pronouncing “Rodham” like “Goddamn,” she blows away the competition in the contest to decide Donald Trump’s biggest victim.

I would add to that list of casualties the American theater. Rather than the groundbreaking dramas and hilarious comedies we were promised as the silver lining of Trumpian trauma, we’ve mostly gotten shows like Five — self-satisfied, unfunny, and downright dull. This period of American history cannot end fast enough.

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Five: The Parody Musical

Final performance: April 21, 2024

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