Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Baghdaddy Blows Away Doubts

Baghdaddy sneaks up on you, in every way.  Even the opening of the show comes across as haphazard. It seems like the cast is a little behind getting ready until it is called to order and we are in the middle of a support group meeting. The obligatory “Hi My Name Is..” statements start and we are on our way. But the meeting isn’t for alcoholics, drug addicts, or sex addicts - it is for people that started the second War with Iraq. An absurdist start to a generally wild evening.
The Cast of Baghdaddy
Baghdaddy is a musical that tells the story of the acts of six people that had some piece in starting the Iraq War via the troublesome intel that was provided. Furthermore, it is a musical comedy, almost a farce. Because people are motivated by small things, like a longing for recognition or love or safety. And, in the lead up before that horrible day in September 2001, these stories are remarkably slapdash and funny.
Bob D’Haene plays Martin Bouchard, the CIA analyst that insisted on publishing unsubstantiated rumors and guesswork. Here he is a laughable blowhard. Lisa Oleynick and Ethan Slater play two CIA analysts that find acceptance and entr√© into decision making by going around the CIA to the Bush State Department. Jason Collins is the CIA manager they go around, to his great chagrin. The remaining two parts are the exuberant German junior office Richard Becker, played to the hilt by Brennen Caldwell and the Iraq source Curveball, played with real pathos by Joe Joseph.
These are the support group members, and we are called to order by the fantastic Brandon Espinoza. Mr. Espinoza and the excellent Claire Neumann provide life to a myriad of ancillary characters, and help with musical harmony to the entire show. The first half of Baghdaddy is hilarious. It is a musical and political keystone kops caper that is presented with the perfect amount of crazy.  And then 9/11 hits the narrative and intermission hits the show.
Brandon Espinoza, Brennan Caldwell and Claire Neumann
The second half is tonally completely different and yet just as perfect. Slipping on a banana peel is funny in theory, but when the slippage leads to actual war, the jokes gives way to frustration, denial and dejection. The humorous tales of “How I started the Iraq War...” morph into real missed opportunities with horrid outcomes.
Baghdaddy is a marvel. It is the story of a stupid war told with humor and fun, but the correct amount of compassion. Given the location and size of the budget, I don’t think the story, setting and acting could be much better. Director Marshall Pailet puts his energetic cast through a non-stop emotional ride, and the audience follows with gusto. Baghdaddy is based on a screenplay by J.T. Allen with the book adapted by Marshall Pailet, who also wrote the music and A. D. Penedo who also wrote the lyrics.

Baghdaddy | Music & Book: Marshall Pailet, Lyrics and Book: A. D. Penedo, Based on a Screenplay:J. T. Allen | Director:  Marshall Pailet | Cast: Brandon Espinoza, Brennan Caldwell, Jason Collins, Bob D'Haene, Joe Joseph, Claire Neumann, Larisa Oleynik, Ethan Slater 

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