Iraq War, the Musical. Unlike so many political satires, Iraq War, the Musical has teeth. It's a sustained and ultimately serious attack on the Bush administration's war and the lies told by Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney in order to launch it. Through skits and songs, writer-creator Paul Cross tells the story of a president determined to invade another country and idiotically unprepared to deal with the consequences. He sketches the profound corruption of this presidency and the way it has distorted policy in order to enrich its associates, as well as the long-standing ties between the Bush and bin Laden families. There's also a clever song called "I Hate You" that underlines the historic rivalry and loathing between bin Laden and supposed co-conspirator Saddam Hussein. Other funny or should-be funny moments: Bush communes with God and Jesus; Cheney feasts on roasted kitten; Colin Powell makes the case for war at the United Nations with the aid of crayon drawings by Bush; Richard Clarke attempts to stop the rush to war and gets tasered by Rumsfeld; Condi Rice vamps sexily as she displays the color codes intended to terrify Americans. Unfortunately, the show continually teeters between juvenilia and brilliance. The songs, most of them by Christopher Carey, are often clever, and occasionally downright inspired. But some of the jokes are really dumb, and a lot of the numbers go on far too long. Presented through August 31, the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, www.iraqwarthemusical.com. Reviewed August 21.
Musketeer. A few years back, members of the Buntport Theater Company were intrigued by news stories that told of Alexandre Dumas's body being exhumed and transported from the cemetery of his native village to Paris for burial at the Pantheon. The Buntporters also fixed on a second fact: Dumas had based his famous novel on a book he'd checked out of the Marseilles Public Library and never returned. From this juxtaposition, we get a contemporary librarian named Charlotte who has noted the overdue book and is determined to get it back from Mr. Dumas — a feat that involves waylaying the coffin, confronting the three faux musketeers escorting it, and eventually engaging in a very lively duel of wits with the deceased author himself. In the course of all this, she's transported back in time to the carriage ride during which Dumas first read his library book, pondered its shortcomings and began to conceive of his own deathless characters. These scenes, in which the author transmutes tendentious dross into fictive gold while arguing with Charlotte about the virtues of logic and order versus those of romance and invention, are among the most delightful of an altogether delightful evening. Buntport achieves its effects in large part with low-budget but highly ingenious staging. A large wooden box serves as both Dumas's coffin and his carriage. Three large screens in the center of the playing area show us the shelves of Charlotte's library, placid green scenery moving past Dumas's carriage, Charlotte and Dumas squished together inside the coffin, arguing. Many of the on-screen images are very beautiful, and through a trick of light and perspective, characters leave the playing area and cross behind the screens, where they seem to enter a magic zone, becoming elegant silhouettes. Musketeer is nutty and farcical, with duels erupting at the drop of a hat, slapstick humor and absurd running jokes, but there are serious ideas here as well: questions about the artistic process, and a growing understanding that poor Charlotte may be the guardian of these texts, but she can never understand the life throbbing inside them, a life that continues to enthrall readers more than a century after their creation. Though the plot isn't entirely satisfying, this is a daring and imaginative work that reminds us that the process of transmutation from fact to fiction and fiction to art is one the Buntporters explore every working day of their lives. Presented by Buntport Theater Company through September 6, 717 Lipan Street, 720-946-1388, www.buntport.com. Reviewed August 14.
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The Will Rogers Follies. This musical, which premiered in 1991, gives us Will Rogers's life in a series of Ziegfeld-style acts, supposedly being performed in the present time: over-the-top musical numbers featuring lots of leggy showgirls, monologues and family scenes, all reshuffled and redirected at will by the intrusive voice of an unseen Florenz Ziegfeld. The format allows the action to go backward and forward in time, and the characters to comment on their actions for the audience even while performing them. In a bit of foreshadowing, aviator Wiley Post sits in the audience, rising periodically from his seat to invite Rogers to take a trip with him. (In 1935, Rogers joined Post for an attempted flight around the world; their plane crashed in Alaska, and both died.) The songs in The Will Rogers Follies aren't really that memorable, but the numbers are toe-tapping, energetic parodies of Ziegfeld's style, and often very funny. A.K. Klimpke gives a low-key, affable performance in the title role, periodically throwing in a crack that carries some penetrating truth or has a little sting in its tail. And we really don't mind when he gets more serious toward the end, singing a gentle song called "Look Around," about preserving the environment, then delivering a radio address on the effects of the Depression and the terrible discrepancies between rich and poor. Presented by Boulder's Dinner Theatre through August 31, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder, 303-449-6000, www.bouldersdinnertheatre.com. Reviewed June 12.