Memo to: The Niederlander Organization
(cc: Cameron Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen
Subject: Send in the Clowns.
Well, the election still isn’t over. The vote counts
continue; lawsuits have been filed; protesters have taken to the streets in
And as we enter what is now week two of Election Day 2000,
it occurs to me that what we’re really dealing with here is not so much a
Constitutional crisis …
…But the makings of a
smash-hit Broadway musical.
Call it Evita II . Or West Palm Beach Story . But personally, I’d re-set the whole thing
in Bolivia-where at least it would be more believable.
Consider the following key characters:
El Presidente. A wildly charismatic, if terribly flawed
figure who gets caught with his pants down around an intern’s neck. In revenge,
his wife (think Madonna with constantly changing hair styles), moves to a chic
city-state where she runs for a seat in the National Assembly after getting a
high fashion makeover by one “Doña Karán.”
Los Candidatos. As El Presidente isn’t allowed to run for
another term-and lacks significant support from the military to stage a
first-class coup-three men rise up to replace him:
Juñor Bush. A man who sees the Presidency as his birthright.
The son of a former President (and head of the secret police), whose father was
tossed out of office by the current office-holder. Juñor’s motivation? Revenge.
El Vice Presidente. Another man who sees the Presidency as
his birthright. The son of a former Senator (who was driven out of office by
Juñor Bush’s political party), El V.P. is tired of living in El Presidente’s
shadow. El V.P.’s motivation? Revenge.
The Dark Prince of Arabia. Señor Nader, of the so-called
“Green” Party. His appeal is to the downtrodden and the disenfranchised; his
motto, “A pox on both your houses.” His motivation? Revenge.
The Mogul. Señor Weinstein, of La Paz.
The Clergy. Reverend Jackson, the Moor.
The Enforcers. Señor Baker, leader of the Sharks. Warren
Christópher, leader of the Jets. They will
dance a deadly tango.
The Chorus. The Hebrews of Palm Beach, The Pundits of Medía.
Mr. O.J. Simpson. A resident of Florída.
Obviously, you know the basic outline of what happens. But
consider the following possibilities for scenes and musical numbers as the
candidates crisscross the country leading up to Election Day:
A daytime women’s TV Talk-Show Diva (Rosa O’Donnell)
threatens to quit if the network doesn’t allow her to make political speeches
over the people’s airwaves. The network relents; Rosa and Barbra Streisánd sing
a duet of the Bolivian National Anthem.
The Media Mogul-Señor Weinstein-is lowered onto the stage in
an airplane, with Tina Brown waving from its tail, as a host of movie actors
throw flowers to star-struck voters in retirement communities.
El Presidente sings a soliloquy, “Why Not Me Again?”
El Vice Presidente goes
through 18 wardrobe changes, as Juñor Bush sings about the evils of drink and
seriously contemplates a double bourbon.
Everyone searches for an interesting rhyme for “pundit” and
for “exit poll.”
Then, of course, there is the chaos that begins on election
night: The media chorus dances on the head of a pin, singing the refrain “It’s
never our fault.” The party bosses look to their own candidates and sing in
counterpoint “This Should Have Been Easy / Let the Recriminations Begin.”
In Nuevo York, El
Presidente’s wife wins a seat in the National Assembly-and promptly turns her
back on him at the victory celebration. Her Salsa-influenced country and
western song: “Hello, My People, Goodbye, My Cheatin’ Spouse.”
As the election boils down to one state, Juñor Bush sings in
accusatory tones to his brother, El Gobernadore: “Poor Jeb is dead, a
klieg-light lights his head … We knew we’d have to cheat / that ballot was so
sweet / but it’s midnight, and we’re stuck in a dead heat.”
At 4:30 in the morning, El V.P. stands alone on the parapet
of a courthouse near the hamlet where he was born. Holding a bust of his father
in his hands, he wonders: “To concede, or not to concede? That is the
question.” Just then, Richard Nixon appears as a hologram. “What should I do?”
begs the candidate. “Beats me,” replies R.N. “But I’m rested, I’m ready, and I
think my rehabilitation is finally
At dawn, Jesse Jackson appears to file the first lawsuit.
“Let the healing begin,” he says, only to be corrected by an offstage voice:
“No, no, no, Jesse. You only have two lines in this-and every-production.
First, it’s ‘A grave injustice has been committed,’ then it’s ‘Let the healing begin.’ Can you please try to keep them in the right order?” The Reverend Jackson
nods. He turns to the cameras: “Take two: A grave injustice has been committed
At 3:30 the next afternoon, the newly elected junior Senator
appears before her constituents in upstate Nuevo York and announces that her
first piece of legislation will be to abolish the Electoral College-thus
guaranteeing that no Presidential candidate ever pays any attention to anyone
in upstate Nuevo York, ever again.
At 4:15, an exploratory committee is formed, and the first
fund-raiser is held to launch her candidacy as the first La Presidenta. Two
days later, when there is still no clear-cut winner, El Presidente reprises his
solo: “I’m Still Here. What About Me?”
So how does it end? After the re-counts and the lawsuits, a
single figure appears at center stage, dressed in a black judicial robe.
Clarence Thomas swigs a Diet Coke, and smiles.
The Chorus sings: “Isn’t it rich? Aren’t they a pair? One
with his foot in his mouth, one with bad hair. Send in the clowns. There ought
to be clowns. Don’t bother, they’re already here.”
The Reverend Jackson: “Let the healing begin.”