A Crystal Palace Revue for the Trump Era
IF YOU GO …
What: Crystal Palace ‘Review’
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 6 & 8:30 p.m.
How much: $50
Tickets: Wheeler box office; aspenshowtix.com
Singer and pianist Mead Metcalf has been satirizing current events and presidents in Aspen since the Eisenhower administration. So, of course, the Aspen icon is coming out of retirement and reuniting with his famed Crystal Palace Players to poke some fun at the blundering and hideous shambles that is President Trump.
Metcalf, a spry 85, is taking the stage alongside his cabaret cast for two shows in what’s billed as the “Crystal Palace ‘Review’” at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, Feb. 2.
The plan for this rare public performance was hatched at an August 2018 reunion that Metcalf hosted at the Inn at Aspen. It brought together some 135 Crystal Palace alumni, now spread across the country, who had served the food and sang the songs at the legendary dinner theater, which Metcalf ran for 51 years before closing in 2008.
“I was overjoyed at the reception,” Metcalf said of that celebration when he announced the Wheeler show. “It was fun.”
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Other members of the rowdy Crystal Palace cast have gotten back together for occasional performances since the Palace closed and Metcalf moved to Crested Butte 11 years ago. Many alumni now populate the stage at former Crystal Palace player John Goss’s Glenwood Vaudeville Revue. But this is the Palace players’ first time onstage in Aspen in four years.
Metcalf announced the show in dramatic fashion in November at the Wheeler Opera House’s season unveiling party. At the tail end of Wheeler director Gena Buhler’s announcement of the winter season, the curtain behind her raised to reveal Metcalf sitting at his piano with a beaming smile on this face. It drew a rapturous response from the assembled crowd of locals.
Metcalf previewed a bit of the new ripped-from-the-headlines show, performing a new tune about Trump set to the classic Gilbert and Sullivan song “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” from “Pirates of Penzance.”
It opens with Metcalf singing “I am the very model of a stable genius president,” and goes on to skewer Trump on his many scandals and shortcomings: “The legislative branch is something I can always circumvent/Colluding with the Russians was certainly a non-event.”
With his satirical knives out for the beleaguered president, Metcalf rolls through a litany of embarrassments from the Stormy Daniels scandal to Karen McDougal to “grab ’em by the …” to Rex Tillerson’s “moron” comment to Trump’s self-proclaimed “very large brain.” As always, Metcalf has a gift for dropping pithy truths in his spoofs, like “I didn’t drain the swamp I just replaced it with a circus tent.”
And, yes, of course, expect Metcalf to perform his signature song, “The Peanut Butter Affair,” at Saturday’s shows.
When he played it at the surprise Wheeler performance in November, Metcalf paused to quip, “Stupid song, isn’t it?” But, of course, we know better about this tale of a businessman whose faux pas of leaving some stray peanut butter on his chin leads his minions to follow and start wearing lumps of it on theirs. It’s a beloved Aspen staple, a silly sing-along and also a brilliant send-up of American conformity and groupthink. (Thomas Friedman, in a March 2017 New York Times column, used the song to explain Trump administration officials’ mimicking their unhinged boss.)
But Metcalf asks that if you know it (and of course you know it) you not sing along with him this time around.
At the reunion last summer, he recalled, his Crystal Palace mates joined in and threw him off his game.
“Everybody started singing along with me, probably a half-note behind,” Metcalf teased. “And that really steals it away. I forget my words. So if you know this song, keep your mouth shut.”
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