Don’t let the title of Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War, turn you off. It is an hilarious, creative, clever, inspiring, fresh breath of air with a score that I would buy right now, if I could. This new musical by Marshall Pailet (Claudio Quest, Triassic Parq) and A.D. Penedo (The Three Times She Knocked), is based on a screenplay by J.T. Allen. The show is also directed by Marshall Pailet, with musical direction by Rona Siddiqui and choreography by Misha Shields. All of these names are the new up and coming talents of musical theatre and breath new life into this form. The show is as terrific as dare I say it, Hamilton. Musically it has strains of Hamilton and Assassins, but it has it’s own unique voice. Add to that exquisite harmonies done by a uber talented cast and musically, you will be in heaven.
Done in the format of an AA support group for those who started the Iraq War. You will hear “I’m _________ and I start- ed the Iraq War.” Brandon Espinoza and Claire Neumann act as the leaders of the group and take on the supporting roles, as you learn how each character did indeed start the Iraq war. We meet the mid-level spies whose foibles contributed to the worst intelligence blunder in modern history; Curveball (at the performance I saw Pomme Koch), an Iraqi defector and the only source on the biological Weapons of Mass Destruction, the German detective Richart (Brennan Caldwell) who gives the unverified story to analyst duo “Berry (Larisa Oleynik) and Jerry (Olli Haaskivi),” CIA analyst Nelson (Jason Collins) and eventually to former weapons inspector David Kay (Bob D’Haene) whose words actually may have been the cause and effect.
Though Former President George W. Bush is never seen, his State of the Union speech is heard. As well as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in which he quotes Curveball’s flawed information. “Curveball” was the codename the CIA gave to the now notorious Iraqi defector who fed U.S. intelligence officials much of the flawed information that they collected about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.
It is hard to single people out, but Mr. Espinoza and Ms. Neumann are both comedically brilliant as well as vocally superb. They are so good at what they do it is hard not to give a shout out. Mr. Koch’s voice and the sensitivity he brings to his role is stellar and to think he was the understudy. His song “Stay” is glorious. Each cast member brings their A game and it shows.
Misha Shields’ choreography is simple. Like Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography, you want to learn it and incorporate it into your movements. Pailet’s direction takes a small space and together lost in. David Farley’s set divides the stwith Ms. Shields creates something so unique with the simplest of props. Rona Siddiqui’s music direction and arrange- ments are truly wonderful and it is so well done. One piano, a bongo and a cast who knows their craft can create an exciting musical.
I didn’t just like this show, I loved it. My prayer for Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War is that it catcheson, gets a cult following and extends and extends. This should be a bonified hit.
This show is absurd and devastating all in the same breath. Like the play Quills demonstrates words can start a war.
Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War: The Actors Temple, 339 West 47th St. through November 22nd. Performances are Saturdays at 3 and 8, and Sundays at 3 and 7.