Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Good Time Was Had By All at "Casey Stampfield: The Musical"

Posted By on Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 2:38 PM

The man, the myth, the musical...
  • The man, the myth, the musical...
I'm so happy to have made it to Nashville in time to catch the closing night performance of Casey Stampfield: The Musical, a supremely silly and satisfying lampoon of Tennessee's most embarrassing politician, Stacey Campfield.

Created by Michael McFaden, Mark Beall and Bradley Moore, and staged by Nashville's Music City Theatre Company, Casey Stampfield mixes elements of classic Vaudeville, living newspapers, and cabaret to create an evening of giddy entertainment reminiscent of performances by D.C.'s Capital Steps. Well, if the Capital Steps were actually funny, that is. The revue also gets a little Freudian as it essays the behavior of a man who seems to have spent his entire life getting kicked out of everything from parties to football games to restaurants. Everything but the Tennessee State House.

Let's face it, making fun of Stacey Campfield (who knew his name was so Dickensian?) is a little bit like like shooting sharks in a Mason jar. And the creators of CS:TM pluck only the lowest of the low hanging fruit. That's not necessarily a complaint by the way, since, in Campfield's case, that's really the only kind of fruit there is.

In a show where everything is over the top Chad Webb was over the Moon as the carrot-topped title character who is described as "the dumbest man of all," in a showstopping number built around the Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston chartbuster, "The Greatest Love of All." Webb was supported by a strong quartet of singers and jokesters including Steve Mogck, Sarah Shepherd, Memory Strong and Daniel Vincent who spoof every crappy idea Campfield has ever associated himself with from "Don't Say Gay," to "Starve the Children."

Based on the enthusiastic response from a packed closing night crowd, this extremely bare bones show could have had a longer run. And I'd be willing to bet that if an enterprising Memphis company wanted to bring the show to town for one-off, or to stage it themselves, something might be arranged. It's too giddy a portrait of a deservedly reviled legislator to just disappear after one little run.

Speaking of the local scene, I couldn't help but wonder if local indies couldn't learn a thing or two from CS:TM. Sure, it's great to see fully realized original work like Justin Asher's Haint. But in order to have more new work we need more companies, including groups who are more interested in entertainment and audience engagement than in creating masterpieces every time. Nashville is enjoying its moment in the sun as an "it" city, but when it comes to physical resources for live theatrical productions, Memphis' companies have a lot of advantages over the Tennessee Capital, where there are no resident performance troupes with permanent digs. Casey Stampfield was produced in the Vibe Entertainment Complex, a nightclub on Church St., in Midtown. And unlike bar-based productions I've seen locally, the club actually stopped admitting bar patrons during the performance, so the actors weren't competing against bar noise. It sure would be nice to see some ambitious locals cultivate this kind of partnership with one of Memphis' notoriously late night music venues.

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