‘Caucus’ the musical tunes into 2012 satire

Political musical gets ready for election

The 2012 presidential race has so far played out with the theatrics of a reality show, but an Iowa playwright and composer sees the stars aligned for a musical.

Previews will start Dec. 8 at Des Moines’ Stoner Theater for “Caucus! The Musical,” Robert John Ford’s followup to a similar titled staging he presented in the last presidential cycle. This time around, the musical has the tagline “2012: The GOP Strikes Back,” but given that the satire seems to be writing itself in the GOP race this year, it begs the question as to what will be left for the stage.

Actually, the media spotlight on candidate gaffes, mind freezes and historical revision is an issue for “Caucus!” Ford says he and the director, Ron Ziegler, had an agreement not to add any more material to the show after summer’s end, but as the election season played out, it became irresistable. Last week, they managed to work in a riff on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s inability name all of the three government departments he would cut if elected president. This time he can only name two branches of government, forgetting the executive.

The musical centers on an Iowa farmer and his family as “typical caucusgoers” and the extraordinary efforts by campaigns to win their votes. The characters, all played by a team of local performers, are all fictional, but the candidates resemble those in 2012. Ford also seems to have a knack for prescience. In 2007, the musical had reference to gay marriages in Iowa; a state Supreme Court decision legalized them in 2009. Sarah Palin had yet to even meet John McCain when the show was staged in the last cycle, but the storyline that year included the visit by an unknown Alaskan governor who disrupts the race. The irony, Ford notes, is that of all the campaigns, the staffers who were the most frequent audience members for “Caucus” came from the McCain campaign.

The musical will run through Dec. 31, just a few days shy of the actual caucus date of Jan. 3.

Ford stresses that the satire is equal opportunity, although naturally it will focus on the Republicans with an uncontested race on the other side of the aisle.