Hamilton may have the hype, but it’s not the only show in town to leave you in astonishment. Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started The Iraq War not only has a long-ass title. It has bad-ass style with a bad-ass cast that pulls off one of the most bad-ass musicals I’ve seen in a very long time.
With minimal staging at midtown’s Actor’s Temple, the intimate show takes us into the machinations, manipulations, and mishegas of the origins and ultimate execution of the Iraq War. It begins and ends as a twelve-step support group, where each of the members confess to starting the War. As I took my seat a few minutes before the performance, people invited me to coffee and doughnuts centered inside the seating circle. I was skeptical. Unless you’re in a legitimate support group, things like this do not happen in New York. Once the strains of composer Marshall Pailet and lyricist A.D. Penedo’s catchy songs began, my attitude shifted from apprehension to pure elation.
Pailet and his co-director Nora Ives, have assembled a top notch cast that is skillfully adept at the triple threat skills of singing, dancing, and acting. The eight person ensemble works so well together that picking out a favorite performer is like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Particular mention should be made to choreographer Misha Shields, however, who obviously knows how to teach her cast to dance with chairs like nimble cheetahs.
Watching Who’s Your Baghdaddy? is both entertaining and enraging. Like any fine satire, it is smart and savvy and does a terrific job at reflecting our own inadequacies and failures. It is maddening, however, when we stop to think why this true to life theater piece had to be created. It is sobering to recall that 52,000 American lives and 500,000 Iraqi lives were lost at the cost of human error-scratch that- human deception. Where were the checks and balances? Furthermore, where was the American interest and outcry? Baghdaddy takes a smart jab at our own reality show/selfie obsessed nation with a news report covering the events of 9/11:
“This just in: everything is not cool here. And if you’re a terrorist, it’s about to be not cool where you are too. Because even though we may not know where Afghanistan is, our military probably does, so watch out!”
Pailet and Penedo handle the subject of 9/11 quite carefully, for although it remains a delicate topic, it would be impossible to tell the story without it. However, they rightfully skewer our Government and our “trusted officials” by exposing blatant disregard for protocol,abuses of power, and ego-driven decisions by dunces.
Pailet and Penedo appear to be relative newcomers to the New York musical theater scene, but for the sake of quality , let’s hope they keep creating work of this caliber.
Who’s Your Baghdaddy? is slated to run through November 22nd, so while we’re hoping for continued brilliant creations from the writers, let’s also add a wish for an extension or a revival soon. It’s an easier (and cheaper) ticket to score than Hamilton and worth every penny.
For tickets and information to Who’s Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War, click here. It runs through November 22nd at The Actor’s Temple (West 47th between 8th and 9th)