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'Caucus! The Musical' Jabs At Political Process


And if you think the presidential candidates take themselves just a little too seriously, there's some folks in Iowa who agree with you. And they've come up with an alternative look at the Iowa caucuses. It's a show called "Caucus! The Musical." Now, this is way off-Broadway. But NPR's Don Gonyea was there to watch them rehearse this week.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Opening night is exactly two weeks away.

ROBERT JOHN FORD: What we're going to do, I think, is we're going to start with when the campaign managers are singing, so it's when the...

GONYEA: And the cast of amateur thespians, each with a day job, is working on one of the big numbers of the first act.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing) When the rivers and cease to flow, that's when you know it's time to go Iowa. It's the premier destination for the savvy presidential wannabe.

GONYEA: Here's the basic plot of "Caucus! The Musical." A national political reporter, not me, identifies an Iowa farm family as the perfect example of the typical Iowa family. They soon become the object of affection from candidates willing to do just about anything for a vote. Of course, it's always been that way in Iowa, right?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Anything for a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, singing) John Kerry cleaned my vents.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Anything for a vote.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, singing) Ricky Perry built my fence.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Iowans know well that a candidate will sell his soul to earn one measly caucus vote.

GONYEA: This musical was first performed in Des Moines in 2004. Every four years since at caucus time, it's run as a revival with updates to keep it current. The candidates in the show are fictional, says writer, composer, lyricist and producer Robert John Ford.

FORD: It's always been a composite of current and previous candidates. It isn't - we're not representing any one current candidate in particular. Although this year we've added one that's pretty close to someone you might know. So that's all I want to say about that.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Ronald Blunt) Hello, Iowa. This crowd is huge.

GONYEA: In the show, that candidate is named Ronald Blunt.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Ronald Blunt, singing) I can make this country very healthy. I can make this country great again.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: Yeah, you can.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As Ronald Blunt, singing) I am very, very, very wealthy. That's why I'm superior to all the other men. And that is why I've never had a wife who's not a 10.

GONYEA: The candidates all get skewered and the news media.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Because we've got 24 hours to fill, 24 hours to fill. The sound of us speaking is always a thrill when there's 24 hours to fill.

GONYEA: There's even a reporter who moves in with that perfect Iowa family to produce a 10-part podcast called "Breakfast Cereal." It's all played for laughs, but this year, Ford added moments that get to the anger that permeates so much political discussion including fights within that family.

FORD: The process, in my mind, has gotten less civil. And it's influenced the way we look at candidates and the way we communicate with candidates and how candidates are communicating with us.

GONYEA: Ultimately though, he says, "Caucus! The Musical" is a love letter to the role Iowa plays in the nominating process, absurd as it sometimes seems.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) Better make a list or two 'cause those candidates will do anything for a vote.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.