Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky — Together Again in Clinton The Musical
Kerry Butler and Veronica J. Kuehn talk spirit guides, split personalities, and the scandal of the '90s.
New World Stages is partying like it's 1995 as Clinton The Musical breathes new life into the most scandalous days of America's 42nd president. Tony nominee Kerry Butler (Xanadu) stars as political woman-of-the-hour Hillary Clinton, while Veronica J. Kuehn (Avenue Q) portrays her historical rival Monica Lewinsky. TheaterMania caught up with the actresses (whose real-life interactions are much more amiable than their onstage relationship) to ask a few questions about the show and the piece of scandalous lore it portrays. We even get an anecdote from Butler about her own brush with presidential greatness.
Where were you when you first learned about the Monica Lewinsky/Clinton scandal?
Kerry Butler: I think I was in college. I remember being really upset, actually, because I really believed in Clinton. I felt like I was deceived in a way.
Veronica J. Kuehn: I was fairly young. I want to say that I was in sixth or seventh grade.
Kerry: Oh my God, I thought you were going to say "six or seven."
Veronica: [laughs] I remember it being a big deal. Everyone was freaking out about it. I would have been in grade school, [but] it was pretty explicitly described, so we knew.
Each of your characters has close ties in one way or another to President Clinton. How close have each of you ever been to a president?
Veronica: Very far. I really don't have that much experience with anything in politics at all.
Kerry: Just like Monica!
Veronica: [laughs] Exactly. I worship from afar.
Kerry: I have a picture with Obama and Clinton! I did a benefit to raise money for the Democrats and since I sang I got to meet both of the presidents. I was so nervous and excited because I was singing this great song, and then I found out they weren't actually there for the performance.
Eleanor Roosevelt serves as a kind of spirit guide for Hillary in this show. Who would each of you choose to be your personal spirit guide?
Kerry: I would choose Mother Teresa.
Veronica: I think I'm gonna go with Oprah. I'm a big Oprah fan.
The musical features two Bill Clintons — the mild-mannered "WJ" and the womanizing "Billy." Do each of you have your own inner "WJ" and "Billy" split personalities?
Kerry: I definitely do. I'm a Gemini. I try to be really sweet and friendly and nice but then sometimes that bad side comes out. [laughs]
Veronica: I think mine centers around performing. I sort of have a stage personality and then in my real life I'm a normal girl. Something happens when I'm onstage that I don't feel in a normal everyday situation.
Would you want the women you portray to come see the show? How do you think they would respond to it?
Kerry: I don't think Hillary should see it. She comes off in a great way, but who would want to relive that part of their life? But we're very precious with her and try to make sure that she comes off really well. I feel like Monica would love it. [This show] made me feel for her for the first time in my life.
Veronica: Yeah, I can imagine being twenty or twenty-two — I know the inappropriate people I've had feelings for — so I feel like I can understand where she's coming from. I would love it if she would come to the show. I would be nervous, but I would be excited. Nothing has been mean-spirited, and I think the jokes that are made are mostly tasteful, so I think she would enjoy it.