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'Rod Blagojevich Superstar' parody back, this time in Arlington Heights
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff

Joey Bland plays the disgraced former governor and Lori McClain his profane wife in Second City's remount of "Rod Blagojevich Superstar" at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

 

Even as his career crumbles, his hair stays perfect. Joey Bland (right) stars as the titular ex-governor in "Rod Blagojevich Superstar," the Second City hit remounted at Arlington Heights' Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.

 

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Published: 8/15/2010 12:02 AM

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"Rod Blagojevich Superstar"  ★★★

Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Center, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. 847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Saturday; 8 p.m. Friday through Sept. 18

Running time: About 70 minutes, no intermission, including the post-show Q&A with the titular character

Tickets: $28.50; $33.50 for stage table seats

Parking: Nearby garage and street parking

Rating: For adults, includes strong language and adult content

Rod Blagojevich is to parody what Illinois politicians are to federal prosecutors: easy pickings.

Before Second City premiered its 2009 musical sendup "Rod Blagojevich Superstar," the disgraced former governor had already provided satirists plenty of fodder. The testament to testicular virility; the "blacker than Barack Obama" claims in Esquire magazine and the jaw-dropping comparisons to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. surely made writer Ed Furman and composer/lyricist T.J. Shanoff's job easy.

And that's before those golden wiretaps that prosecutors used to accuse him of trying to auction off a Senate seat and shakedown a hospital administrator.

Furman and Shanoff incorporate all of that and more into their swift, caustic, very funny revue remounted at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

Tipping its musical hat to "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Pippin," "Godspell" and "The Wiz," "Superstar" chronicles the rise and fall of Blago (Joey Bland, nimbly reprising the role he created), from numskull lawyer to Chicago Machine cog, to D-list celebrity defendant.

It begins with Rod - a self-described "scrapper" - falling for the foul-mouthed Patti Mell (Lori McClain, outstanding as Illinois' First Lady Macbeth), daughter of Democratic Chicago alderman and power broker Dick Mell (Dunbar Dicks).

"A young lawyer marrying into a politically connected Chicago family, what a way to strengthen my integrity," exclaims Rod who, empowered by his father-in-law and a well-oiled machine, rises through the political ranks.

While "not a great thinka," he manages to "beat both Ryan and Topinka" and ascend to the state's top office - twice - to the chagrin of Attorney General Lisa Madigan (Laureen Dowden) and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (Dicks) who conspire to take him down.

Turns out they don't have to work that hard to do it. Greed, narcissism and a squabble with his father-in-law over a Will County landfill, contribute to Blagojevich's demise - which fortunately doesn't affect his characteristic coiffure.

Director Matt Hovde and his energetic cast earn kudos for the relish with which they embrace the fast-moving show, which concludes with an unscripted Q-AND-A between the audience and the titular superstar.

As for him, Bland make the megalomaniacal doofus endearing (his realization that he can't appoint himself to Obama's vacant Senate seat because he can't figure out how to bribe himself is particularly poignant). That's no easy task when you're playing a work-averse, clothes horse whose approval rating has flat-lined. But Bland manages it.

Also deserving mention is John Hildreth, terrific as Roland Burris, a gadfly seeking a lucrative but undemanding job for his son and a Senate seat for himself. You don't have to be a political junkie to appreciate "Pay to Play" a soft shoe number that pays homage to Illinois politics as usual or wickedly wry, expletive-laden "I Don't Know How to Love Him" in which Patti reveals her devotion to her husband and her acceptance of his staggering shortcomings, all of which are on display in "Superstar."