The new Broadway show written by Michael Moore and directed by Michael Mayer is a political pep rally spiced with Moore’s entertaining persona. It is surprising what an excellent comedian he can be in the process of reviewing his life and promoting his political commitments, all the while attuned to his current role of trying to build resistance to Donald Trump and his administration. Moore exhorts his audience to follow through by aiding the fight-back movement, which makes this an unusual—and enjoyable—Broadway theater outing.
I had kind of expected an indulgent show, and when I was informed on entering that it would be two hours long without an intermission, I wondered how Moore could hold even en enthusiastic crowd for that long. But lo and behold, the time breezed by (with only a slight lull here and there) as Moore held firm command, veering from immensely entertaining and often hilarious segments, to his very serious effort to change the political landscape.
The show begins with huge projections of a mammoth Trump campaign rally, then cuts to the lone figure of Michael Moore, emerging as if a one-man army against the Trump onslaught. His assembled audience is clearly supportive, and ready to be regaled by the host.
Moore can be a laugh riot, as when he reads from a brochure of what he cannot bring along on an airplane flight. He has on a desk a travel case, which clearly has a false bottom, and he withdraws a series of assorted power tools that could never fit in one case. I won’t spoil the ultimate joke.
At one point he asks a volunteer from the audience, whom he describes as an ultra smart American who got high grades in school. Then he asks for a Canadian in the audience who just about got by. With both volunteers taking the stage, Moore proceeds to conduct a quiz show to prove that the dumbest Canadian is smarter than the smartest American. Obviously, the result can vary from night to night; at the performance I attended the American upended Moore’s thesis.
Especially interesting, and, as usual, entertaining in his manner of presentation, is Moore’s account of how he was elected to the school board at an early age in Davison, Michigan, thereby, in revenge for being whacked on the butt, managed to get the principal and assistant principal of his school fired. He also tells the story of how he and a Jewish friend traveled to Bitburg, Germany, to get, by various manipulations, to the cemetery site in question and unfurl a sign blasting Ronald Reagan’s visit that would honor Nazis buried among to German soldiers. A photo that records the protest is projected.
Moore turns most serious and angry when he describes how children have been made ill by a poisoned water supply in Flint, Michigan. He is outraged that there has been no proper punishment for those knowingly responsible.
As for the show’s terms of surrender in the title, Moore affirms that he is not ready to surrender to Trump, and there is a planned sequence, emblazoned with lots of flashing lights, when he playfully pledges to run for the presidency. It’s a very funny gambit. In addition to ticking off major campaign pledges, he promises there will be only one electrical cord for the variety of smart phone devices in circulation.
Moore comes up with a hilarious surprise grand finale that I will avoid spoiling for you. All through the show Moore exhibits an informal manner. There are two monitors hanging from the mezzanine, but all they do is provide subject cues, not text.
Unless you happen to be a Trump supporter (poor you), Michael Moore’s Broadway stand is a show you can welcome and thoroughly enjoy. At the Belasco Theatre, 111 West 44th Street. Phone: 212-239-6200. Reviewed August 17, 2017.