Only moderately entertaining, “How to Be an American!” is a show in the York Theatre Company’s staged concert performances series designed to premiere new musicals. Wrapped in a patriotic motif, the work subtitled “A Political Cabaret” has been written by T. Cat Ford and is directed by Bill Castellino. It is really a satire on political corruption during the era of power wielded in New York by Tammany Hall.
The best parts of the offering are the appealing performances by D.C. Anderson as Rev. Dr. Parkhurst, Tim Jerome as George Washington Plunkitt, Dan Manjovi as Aaron Jefferson Levi and Frank J. Paul as Tony Caponi, all largely reading from scripts. They collectively get into the spirit of an old-fashioned political revival meeting aimed at those to be cajoled and bribed into “voting often” to guarantee the election of Tammany favorites.
There are some clever touches, such as the slogans of corruption celebrated, and members of the audience become involved, with persons selected to show how different disguises can be used to vote repeatedly. “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “The Star Spangled Banner” are used to package the corruption in patriotism. “Tammany” is the catchiest of the other numbers.
Author Ford adapted the musical from “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall—a Series of Very Plain Talks on Very Practical Politics.” Musical direction is by Ryan Touhey, with cast members playing instruments.
Although amiable and bright in spirit, the musical lacks sufficient wit to make it more than a pleasant satire on how immigrants to the United States could be molded into dominated voters for those holding onto power so that elections could be manipulated. Read what you like into the contemporary political scene. At The Theater at Saint Peter’s, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street). Phone: 212-935-5820. Reviewed September 19, 2016.