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'Clinton: The Musical' gets U.S. debut at NY theater festival

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Clinton: The Musical," a bawdy, raucous farce parodying the sex scandal that rocked the White House, with two actors portraying the dual sides of Bill Clinton, makes its U.S. debut this month during the New York Musical Theater Festival.

Critics have described the show that premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in 2012 before transferring to London as "witty, quirky" and a "delicious political satire."

The musical depicts Bill and Hillary Clinton's attempts to save the presidency following his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"Our play is a loving poke at Bill Clinton," Duke LaFoon, who portrays the Bill who gets into trouble, said at a preview. "He is quite the character, so there is a lot there to mine for jokes."

Karl Kenzler, as WJ Clinton, is the idealistic politician who genuinely wants to change the country and help his fellow man.

"Ultimately this show is a sharp farce. It's a parody and people make a lot of comparisons to 'South Park' and 'The Book of Mormon'," Kenzler said, referring to the TV comedy and hit Broadway play.

Written by Australian brothers Paul and Michael Hodge, the show has performances between July 18 and 25th at the festival, a showcase for new musicals.

The musical premieres in New York following publication of Hillary Clinton's memoir "Hard Choices," with the country guessing about whether she will run for president in 2016.

The Clintons did not respond to a request for comment about the show. There are also portrayals of Lewinsky, former Republican Congressman Newt Gingrich and Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who issued a report on the scandal.

"When she is asked specifically about the scandal her answer is, 'I'm over that,'" said Alet Taylor, who plays Hillary. "She wants to move forward, so I don't know that our musical represents moving forward, but I think she is aware of it."

Paul Hodge decided to write the musical after seeing a play in Australia with his family about a former Australian prime minister. The idea emerged when his dad suggested that Clinton's story would make a great musical.

Hodge was initially reluctant about having two actors play the former U.S. leader, as suggested by his brother. Then he read Clinton's autobiography.

"He, himself, said he felt like he had led these two parallel lives and other people like his political advisor Dick Morris had little names for him like 'Saturday night Bill' and 'Sunday morning president' or the 'the boy scout and the politician,'" said Hodge.

Director Adam Arian collaborated with Hodge for nearly a year to bring the musical to the United States.

"I think Bill Clinton has a certain humanity that endears him to people and that he has both strengths and weaknesses and I think people understand that he is a human being," said Hodge.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and David Gregorio)

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