Bush Is Bad

NoHo Arts Center


It was ol’ dumb Dubya himself who told our wincing nation and a horrified world: “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure,” but with gratitude to the recently über-prolific NoHo Arts Center and their smash hit Bush Is Bad, we can all thank our lucky stars this show is so good we won’t have to try to figure out—at least for 90 minutes or so—what goes on within the vacant lobes of our fearless leader that might make even the smallest sense of his many frequent verbal faux pas.


Wildly inventive creator/composer/lyricist Joshua Rosenberg, who has been described as the new Tom Lehrer “except he can’t sing,” even created a wonderful semi-rap song made up entirely of all those rampant presidential misspeaks in Bush Is Bad, including “Put food on your family,” “Family is where our wings take dream,” and featuring the catchy repeated refrain “Make the pie higher.” With the precision (and hilarious) Roger Ainslie playing GWB, some of the lyrics here are so delicious they even make the previous President Bush seem a literate speaker in comparison.

Including Ainslie, who has Bush’s bone-chilling snicker and Down Syndrome-inspired expression down to perfection (“Time for some serious thought,” he intones at one point, of course then followed by a long blank look resembling a chimpanzee on Quaaludes), directors Jay Willick and James J. Mellon have assembled a spectacular cast, even including a talented but shamelessly self-professed Republican actor named Sabrina Miller, who is obviously going straight to Blue State Hell for participating in this.

As far as lampooning presidential family members, Stefanie Black makes a scary Laura (singing the Weill-esque “Sure, You Betcha, George”) and Gerry Mullins is even scarier as Barbara (warbling “You Can Never Get Enough Bush”). Jonathan Zenz is a major standout throughout, especially with his Schumann-inspired solo “Das Bush Ist Schlect,” and gifted musical director Michael Lavine (who doubles as Karl Rove in a duet with Mullins as Chaney at one point while Bush-Ainslie takes over at the keyboards) should be praised for his crisply paced contribution here.

Bush Is Bad seems to be updated on a regular basis as world events continue to unfold (and horrify) with perfect Jon Stewart-style quick wit (speaking of Daily), as the night I attended, Melanie Ewbank as God added to her celestially-oriented “Get Real” number the topical reference regarding the Ding-Dong-Dawitchez death of that mortal enemy of Tinky Winkys everywhere: “Jerry Fallwell / Now isn’t that rich? / He’s up here now  / And he’s my bitch.” One can only assume Rosenberg is in email or cellphone contact with Willick and Mellon, ready at a moment’s notice to create properly scathing new comic material.

Bush Is Bad is a great way for 99 people at one time to be able to laugh off the depression caused by this man and his misguided administration throughout the rest of our day, at least the 74% of us with any brains left in our craniums. The show was a hit in New York and now thankfully it’s already been extended once at NoHo Arts. Hopefully, it’ll play here forever—or at least long enough to add a huge production number at the end heralding the end of George W. Bush’s reign of global terror, along with his ridiculously sad and equally laughable regime. 

Bush Is Bad plays through June 24 at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Bl., North Hollywood; for tickets, call 818.508.7101.

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for ArtsInLA.com. As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a ReviewPlays.com Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing. www.travismichaelholder.com