Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of friends who are always out experiencing the best of entertainment. Be it plays, films, concerts, exhibits, or games, they’ve learned that the arts are best when experienced together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. This week, we return to an older conversation, regarding the musical parody that took the 2016 election by storm. Let’s hear what they had to say…
“I just think they should have had more people of color in the leads,” Eleanor said.
“I mean, they had most of them,” Gwen said. She glanced back at the Art Box as they walked down the lakefill. “It was really only Jeb and Marco Rubio that were white. I mean, ignoring Connor Scott as Bill Clinton – the best part of the whole show.”
“That was amazing!” Dania said. “How incredible that they get someone who could actually play saxophone too. People are talented.”
“Yeah,” Eleanor said. “I mean, it was a mess, but it was a fun mess. I just think with Hamilton being the source material and everything, you know…you want to retain the multi-ethnic casting as much as possible.”
“Well, it’s also a weird time to stage it,” Gwen said. “I saw Zach put out an ad looking for actors. It wasn’t exactly chosen on merit so much as who happened to show up. What did they say about the rehearsal time?”
“At most three hours,” Dania quoted. “And at least, three minutes. Felt about right.”
“Yeah, it’s about as much rehearsal as you could need for this kind of thing,” Eleanor said. “I mean, if someone had crafted a really, really high-quality musical parody about Jeb Bush, I’d be wondering what they did with their time.”
“Accurate,” Dania said. “Who wrote it? Did Zach? Did they all write it?”
“I don’t believe anyone in the performance wrote the script,” Gwen said. “It was a Google Doc, the people on the Facebook group Post Aesthetics. Nearly forty people ended up contributing to it. Maybe some of them were in it.”
“I heard a few of the writers were there,” Eleanor said. “They were on a blanket near the back.”
“I’m glad the sun was out,” Dania said, glancing over the shining water of the lake. “It was really the ideal morning for this.”
“Totally,” Eleanor said. “Although, I would have thought we’d know who the Democratic nominee would be by this point.”
“I mean…” Dania shrugged, “we sorta do.”
“We’ll know on Tuesday,” Eleanor agreed. “But you know.”
“I think what impressed me the most,” Gwen continued, “was that the whole thing wasn’t actually that…terrible.”
“I know, right?” Dania exclaimed. “I was totally prepared for, like, a giant disaster that’s funny because its bad.”
“Like Jeb Bush,” Eleanor commented.
“Exactly.” Dania smiled. “So when it turned out that it was actually funny – like really funny…”
“I don’t know if I’d consider it funny,” Gwen cautioned. “More ‘humorous.'”
“What’s the difference?”
“I mean, it was clearly under-rehearsed,” Eleanor said. “But they mentioned in the introduction that that was the point. It was supposed to be a light-hearted evening at the edge of the lake, not a deep-dive into political theory.”
“Right,” Dania said. “But you know, it’s written by forty people. For every dud of a joke, there’s something really, really funny.”
“They did a fine job translating the lyrics from Hamilton to be about Jeb Bush while retaining the phrasing,” Gwen observed. “They could have tossed out the lyrics entirely and fully rewrote the story, but they stuck to the Hamilton narrative and, for the most part, it almost worked.”
“Eh, the Reynolds Pamphlet being about guac bowl memes doesn’t totally fit,” Eleanor said.
“What could possibly fit there, though?” Gwen said. “There’s no scandal large enough to derail someone’s campaign anymore.”
“What was the Guaca-Bowle?” Dania said. “Did he actually sell that?”
“It was on his website,” Gwen explained. “One of the gift-shop items was a $75 guacamole bowl called ––”
The three spoke in unison: “The Guaca-Bowle.”
“Wow,” Dania said. After a moment, she added: “How was he not a huge hit?”
Eleanor pinched her thumbs and forefingers together and, bringing her hands in, spoke with a deeper tone: “yuge.”
“Oh, and the woman playing Donald Trump ––” Gwen said, bringing a hand to her head. “Mahek. She was fantastic.”
“I love that they picked a woman of color to play Donald Trump,” Eleanor said. “I’m sure it would have annoyed him.”
“Well, you also have to consider that Trump in this show is a bigger role than Burr in Hamilton,” Gwen pointed out. “Trump sings all of Burr’s lines, plus all of ‘Guns And Ships,’ plus the Maria Reynolds equivalent.”
“John Miller?” Dania remembered.”Who was that?”
“It’s an old Trump reference, look it up,” Gwen explained. “But certainly, she has a fabulous voice when she has to sing. And considering it’s a rap musical, and only a…certain percentage of the people could actually rap…”
“Not necessarily including Jeb Bush,” Dania remarked.
“I think that was intentional,” Eleanor said. “Giving the lead none of the charisma of Hamilton.”
“Still,” Gwen said. “It certainly let people like Mahek and Connor run away with the show. Although some of the ensemble managed to put in good performances – Stefan Schallack as Ted Cruz, Abby Doermann as Marco Rubio.”
“Both fantastic. I mean, you consider how little practice everyone had,” Eleanor said. “Even three hours is basically just the length of the show itself. They can’t have run through everything beforehand, so some of that was read cold.”
“Well, Mahek clearly rehearsed,” Gwen said. “She stood out.”
“I couldn’t decide if I liked her singing more,” Dania added, “Or the girl who played Eliza and sang ‘Burn.'”
“Shea!” Gwen said, excitedly. “I knew she had a good voice, but man, she got to show it off!”
“They were both pretty, pretty good,” Eleanor said. “Not to mention Mahek’s strong comedic timing as Donald Trump. It’s hard to nail comedic timing in a sung-through musical, but she made it work.”
“Very true,” Gwen agreed. “Ugh, what a way to kick off the summer.”
“Yeah, for something free and thrown together quickly, I’m more than satisfied,” Dania said.
“Now, let’s hope that the show has a happy ending,” Eleanor said.
“What,” Dania asked. “Jeb magically gets the nomination?”
The three girls laughed, defensively, before moving on with their conversation. But the thought lingered within each of them. Sure, Donald Trump was plenty amicable when embodied in a twenty-two year old Filipino woman, but the real one was still out there. Waiting. Tweeting.
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