Amidst all the talk of GOP candidates and November elections, there is no better time to reflect on those that made our country what it is today. With upbeat songs and a colorful cast of characters, "Rock The Presidents," which begins performances Sunday at the Childsplay children's theater in Tempe, celebrates the rich history of our nation's leaders.
"One of the things we're really trying to do is show the human side of the presidents, regardless of what we might think about a particular president," director Anthony Runfola said. "We're all fallible and make mistakes, but do great things at the same time. I think it is a very fair view of all people that have held that office."
Runfola is an Arizona native who currently serves as the production manager of Childsplay, but regularly directs one to two productions a year. He has been with the company for 13 years, and was delighted to develop "Rock The Presidents" with his peers Dwayne Hartford and Sarah Roberts, who wrote the show's book and score.
The 90-minute revue features all 44 presidents and roughly 23 songs that span a variety of musical styles including rock, jazz, country, and even rap.
Three cast members take on multiple roles over the course of the show, ranging from presidents to Secret Service agents to first ladies.
"It includes the women in something they really haven't been included in before," cast member Yolanda London said. "My character sings about how the presidents have all been men, but the first ladies have made their mark on history. I hope it will inspire people to think about their possibilities."
London recently moved to Tempe after living in Ahwatukee for five years, and believes it is a great show for both parents and kids to enjoy together.
"What we hope is that it starts conversations," Runfola said. "These are the sorts of things that when parents see it with their children, they can kind of explain what that was and why it happened. It is a great way to reconnect with history and our political process."
In light of the recent political pandemonium, has "Rock The Presidents" begun to make room for a 45th president?
"Not yet," Runfola laughed. "We're sort of standing by to see if we're going to have to rewrite any lyrics or add a new president by the end of the year."
"Rock The Presidents" begins performances at Tempe Center for the Arts Studio Theatre at 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe on Feb. 12 and plays through March 4. Ticket prices range from $12 to $25, and are available at www.childsplayaz.org.
• Patrick Ryan is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.