Numerous books and articles have been written about Watergate, the 1970s political scandal that toppled former President Richard Nixon and many within his cabinet. The infamous Republican break-in at the Democratic National Committee further compromised American’s already shaky integrity of our U.S. government, led to an unprecedented resignation of a sitting president and sent many high profile individuals to jail. It certainly was not a historical event worth singing about—unless you’re Joshua Rosenblum.
Rosenblum is the author (book, music, & lyrics) of Mark Felt, Superstar, a staged reading currently being produced by the York Theatre Company. The musical is part of their New2NY series, a program that features shows which have not yet been seen in New York.
Felt (Neil Mayer) was the man behind one of the longest held secrets in Washington politics. As the deputy director of the FBI, he provided and verified information to Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward (Peter Benson) and Carl Bernstein (Will Erat). Felt acquired the nickname “Deep Throat” and concealed his identity and involvement with the case before breaking his silence in 2005.
It’s a niche topic to turn into a song and dance, but surprisingly—it works! Rosenblum culled his material from auto-biographies of those who were involved as well as from the famous All the President’s Men, written by Bernstein and Woodward. The number of players involved is dense, but director Annette Jolles capably puts her talented cast of five to work as they each play a myriad of parts. At times, our leading man gets lost in the shuffle and it would be nice if Rosenblum had given us a deeper insight into the background and psychology of Felt.
Rosenblum’s jazz infused score is well suited to the mysterious noir-like drama. Even die-hard political hounds who know how it all ends will be fascinated by the details the story reveals. Two highlights include Nixon’s (Michael McCoy) tuneful proclamation, “I Am Not a Crook”, and “Almost Gave it Away”, a song that speaks to the unbearable heartache suffered by Felt’s wife, Audrey (Vanessa Lemonides).
Rosenblum neither vilifies nor exalts Felt. Instead, he provides his audience with their own decisions about the controversial figure. Quality productions based on actual events spur individuals to delve into actual history. Rosenblum’s work does precisely that. Perhaps in a few years, Rosenblum can write another crooked tale based on recent history. I’ve always wanted to hear Rex Tillerson sing.
Mark Felt, Superstar runs through January 15th @ The Theater at Saint Peter’s (619 Lexington Avenue @ 54th Street). For tickets and information, visit here.