“If I can’t be the wife of the president, you bet your ass I’ll be the mother.”
These words, sung by Violet Chandler (Christine Sherrill), set the roller coaster of a ride that is The Fix in motion. After the death of her husband Reed (Bobby Smith) while in bed with his mistress, Violet decides that it is time for her derelict son, Cal (Mark Evans) to come into his own and make his own grab for the White House. Starting with basic training, Violet and her political advisor brother-in-law Grahame (Lawrence Redmond) begin to mold their product into the perfect politician.
The Fix itself is a little-known rock musical with book and lyrics by John Dempsey and music by Dana P. Rowe, the team that also brought us The Witches of Eastwick and Zombie Prom. Having had its American premiere at Signature in 1998, it makes its return just in time of the beginning of the 2016 presidential race.
Armed with that fact in mind, the design team at Signature certainly went all out in creating a polished environment with a dark underbelly. With a set by Mischa Kaufman that evokes both the White House and the plantation foyer of a Southern gentlemen of good breeding and lighting design by Ryan O’Gara that is reminiscent of a rock concert on steroids, there is no mistaking the inherent dichotomy of the political world. Jon Kalbfleisch and his astounding band of musicians are amazing as is the energetic choreography by Matthew Gardiner.
The cast, directed with flair by Eric Schaeffer, also truly embodies this idea with almost every character having one vice or another that could bring their world crashing down around them. Evans as Cal crashes across the stage like a delinquent (but still sexy) Kennedy, indulging his passion for hard drugs with the assistance of his mistress Tina McCoy (Rachel Zampelli). His limitless tenor soothes the worries of the public in songs like “I See The Future” and “Simple Words” that he is the one that they want to see in government, despite his frequent scandals.
Sherrill as Violet is a hard drinker with an even harder heart as she does everything she can to fulfill her dream of getting to the White House at the expense of her son’s happiness and her sanity. Her breakdown in the number “Spin” reveal a humanity about the character that tell all of the true expense that is being paid. Backed up by Grahame, the ghost of Reed, and an incredible ensemble of Signature favorites, the Chandler family balance precariously on the edge of the political knife.
The only downside to this amazing production is the book, which starts off the show at hyper speed, slows down immensely by the middle of Act One and remains trapped in what seems to be the idea that every possible political scandal must be used to delay Cal’s journey. From his drug addiction to his affair to his affiliation with a known mobster, the second half of the play feels stuck and the resolution hastily wrapped up because of it. However, it does not detract enough from the amazing work being done on the stage.
Being so close to the nation’s capital and immersed in the political drama that defines DC, Signature starts off its 26th season with a bang as it examines the lives of the politicians that we see on the news every day. If you love your musicals filled with sex, drugs, and rock and roll, then get your tickets now. Just don’t be surprised if you sense some dark truths about our own politics on that stage.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, plus one 15-minute intermission.