SACRED FOOLS | MAINSTAGE 2002 - Jack - a play with songs

"Terrifically funny...crackling with mordant humor!"
- LA Times
"Devastatingly hilarious!"
- The Play Review

JACK - Original Cast Recording! Listen to Samples Online or Buy it! Click here!
Click here to listen or buy!

Written and Produced by Jim Tosney
Directed by Warren Coleman
Music and Lyrics by Tom Megan
Executive Produced by Robert Levine

Amy Arnelle, Ahmed A. Best, John Bigham,
Paul Byrne, Tom Chalmers, Vince DonVito,
Tabatha Hall, Tracy C. Henry, Robert Machemer,
Jennifer Moyse, Alan Prewitt, Chad Restum,
Angela Rubino, John Sylvain and Elle Travis


On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...
Thu, Fri & Sat @ 8pm
April 4 - May 4, 2002
Tickets: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
Purchase Tickets Online!
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JACK is a satirical comedy with romance, original songs, and dance - loosely based on the real people and events surrounding Kennedy's Camelot. It is also very much a fantasy, taking huge artistic license with the facts. With a quirky sensibility all its own, JACK is the story of a hero who is transformed by events beyond his control. Plus, it will leave you whistling and tapping your feet. JACK is unique entertainment!

Design - Susie White, Isabel Froes
Stage Manager - Chris Childs
Costumes - Ruth Silveira, Tara Keenan
Sound Design - Drew Dalzell
Props - Richard Gustafson, Stan Freitag
Choreography - Ahmed A. Best
Hair and Makeup - Valerie Noble
Associate Producer - Carter Shackelford




   The Kennedys were famous for their games of touch football--a fun pastime that had the added advantage of enhancing the family's image. They all looked so rugged, so sexy, so American. How could anyone not want them to be the nation's first family?
   Playwright Jim Tosney and composer-lyricist Tom Megan take that ball and run with it, suggesting in their new musical satire, "Jack," that the Kennedys tried to run the country the same way they approached backyard football. They played to win, and they looked so fantastic while doing it that a dazzled nation didn't look too closely at the family's otherwise troubling behavior.
   In its premiere staging at Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood, "Jack" is broad but biting--a bit like Vaughn Meader's generation-defining 1962 comedy album "The First Family."
   The songs are neither memorable nor terribly organic, but like everything else on display here, they prove to be rather cheeky and entertaining.
   As embodied by Robert Machemer, Jack Kennedy is impossibly handsome--in an Eastern preppy sort of way--with a gleaming smile that borders on a smirk. He was born for the camera, which will become an invaluable ally in his campaign for the presidency.
   Although JFK is an attractive figurehead, the real power resides in Papa Joe (Chad Restum), who assures generals, Mafiosi and a distrustful J. Edgar Hoover (John Sylvain) during the 1960 election campaign, "We'll all make money on this deal."
   The younger, smarter Bobby (Tom Chalmers) is better equipped to be president, but Papa Joe holds him back because he's not as well cast for the role--at least, in terms of movie-star good looks--as his brother.
   The show takes a while to build momentum, but it hits a high point in the first act with a terrifically funny take on Jack's televised debate against Republican nominee Richard M. Nixon. John Bigham keeps his head lowered to make himself look jowly, and he sounds like the real Nixon as he mops the sweat from his brow and generally falls apart in front of America. This leads to a little ragtime number in which he asks: "Why does everybody hate me? Why do I make babies cry?"
   "Jack" looks great, dressed in crisp, straight-lined period costumes by Ruth Silveira and Tara Keenan, and plays out against the backdrop of a world map--the board upon which the Kennedy family plays its little parlor games. Director Warren Coleman keeps the action crackling with mordant humor.
   The real glory of the production, though, is its impersonations--the sharpest coming from Machemer, with his dead-on, JFK-like Brahmin accent; Amy Arnelle, with her surprising facial similarities to the real Jackie; Bigham, with his scene-stealing Nixon; and Ahmed A. Best as a hep-cat Sammy Davis Jr., who keeps helping the Kennedys, only to be shoved aside when politically expedient.
   The show doesn't entirely come into its own until about its last 15 minutes; just when things are getting fun, the show, abruptly, is over. But then, that's just what happened with the Kennedy presidency, isn't it?

-- Daryl H. Miller


Sometimes being older isn't so bad.  Among some of the things one remembers is the Camelot of the 1960's and the people who made it a vibrant era.  In that light, when a production like this one comes around, the connections are more vivid and the experience is more fulfilling. 

Seeing this play brought back many of the old remembrances of the parodies and jokes made at the time, most in good natured humor as a genuine sign of admiration for the President and those around him.

Now writer / producer Jim Tosney has emerged from somewhere in the depths with a devastatingly hilarious tale of the most talked about first families ever, and the man who presumably was it's leader.  No - not JFK.  It was Joe Kennedy - - - Papa Joe as he is called in this production.

Tosney leads us from the campaign trail through the final flight to Dallas, skewing every possible situation with witty lampoons and clever songs, adding splashes of laughter to every scene.

The infamous Papa Joe apparently buys the election, decides who will marry JFK and how he will run the country, making promises that he never intends to keep, and living his first son Joe's life vicariously through Jack.

Jack is a horny playboy, more interested in a sexy blonde than his wife, although any skirt in sight will do.  Papa arranges for the Mob to deliver the vote in Chicago, for Sammy (Davis Jr.) to deliver the Black vote, and after winning the election, Jack has no clue as to what comes next, while Bobby, the smart one, keeps the government going with the help of McGeorge.

General Curtis wants Jack to push the button and blow up Russia, but Papa has suffered a stroke, and now Jack has to make the decisions.  The Russians are threatening, the mob is unhappy that they haven't kept their promise about opening Cuba, and Sammy is mad that after he delivered the Black vote, they won't let him in the White House.  J. Edgar is mad that Jack and Sammy were friends in the first place and it seems that they all are getting together to get even.  Mindful of the axiom that behind every great man there is a woman, Tosney shows how the woman in Jack's life influenced him.  However most of the time it was Judith, his mistress, although Jackie does get a couple of good shots in.

All these events take place between songs, dances, double entendres and some of the wildest situations imaginable. Picture Sammy singing about becoming President and changing the residence's name to Black House and J. Edgar showing up at a state dinner wearing a dress, and one of the best, Nixon singing a lament about not being liked, and you start to get the picture.  It was evident that director Warren Coleman gave the cast a lot of latitude and they had a lot of fun stretching the scenes.

Jack and Jackie are wonderfully portrayed by Robert Macherner and Amy Amelle, with Chad Restum as Papa Joe.  Sexy Elle Travis is Judith, and John Sylvain brings the house down as J. Edgar.  John Bigham has several roles, but is a riot as Nixon, and Ahmed A. Best is true to his name, walking away with the show as Sammy.   Tracy C. Henry is a harried McGeorge and Tom Chalmers is the equally frustrated Bobby.   Tabatha Hall is the matriarchal Rose, and Vince DonVito is dead on as a mobster, but not quite there as Nikita.   Angela Rubino has several parts, and is best as May, Sammy's wife. Jennifer Moyse also does double duty as Barbara and Nina.

Even though Paul Byrne looks like a general, if we were casting the show we would have him and Alan Prewitt (Lyndon) trade roles.  Byrne would have been a much better Lyndon since he has the height and age for the part, and Prewitt's nutty faces would have been great for General Curtis, but keep him as the Cardinal.  Guess that's why they call us critics and not directors.

One thing that is certain.  The audience gave director Warren Coleman and the rest of the huge cast a resounding standing ovation with cheers, yells and stomping on the rafters.  Translation: The audience loved it.

-- Jose Ruiz
2002 The Play Review