Advertisement

Review: 'Randy Rainbow for President' rolls through L.A. leading the anti-Trump resistance

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 19, 2024: Randy Rainbow's "Randy Rainbow for President" at the Orpheum Theatre on January 19, 2024. (Chiara Alexa / For The Times)
Randy Rainbow in "Randy Rainbow for President" at the Orpheum Theatre on January 19, 2024. (Chiara Alexa / For The Times)

Randy Rainbow, leader of the musical theater resistance to Donald Trump and his train of fascist Mini-mes, had a campaign stop at Los Angeles’ Orpheum Theatre for his “Randy Rainbow for President” tour on Friday.

His platform? Make America Gay Again. (He said he’s vying to be the first twink in the White House since Jared Kushner.) But what he’s really after is to restore the nation’s fabulousness with a concentrated dose of common sense.

Part video karaoke, part piano bar floor show, part infomercial for his own singular stardom, the evening showcased Rainbow’s many colors. For a performer who confessed that he thinks in show tunes, he certainly knows how to bewitch an audience with musical theater classics retooled to put lunkhead politicians with malicious agendas in their place.

Rainbow is accompanied on stage by a trio of musicians (music director Alexandre Marr on piano, David Wolbert on bass and Ryan Folger on drums). But his true co-star was himself on screen. He sang along to a selection of some of his own best videos. Sound and image weren’t always in sync, but the stage show (under the music supervision of Michael J. Moritz Jr.) never missed a beat.

Rainbow’s parody lyrics, which appear as subtitles, nearly upstaged him with their zingy brilliance. His high-profile admirers — including Lin-Manuel Miranda and the late Stephen Sondheim — are especially discerning when it comes to comic wordplay. Rainbow was wise to throw a spotlight on his verbal virtuosity.

A man in a pink gown and a straw hat sings on stage.
Randy Rainbow belts out a tune in "Randy Rainbow for President" at the Orpheum Theatre on January 19, 2024. (Chiara Alexa / For The Times)

Grumpy Trumpy Felon From Jamaica in Queens!,” a version of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” inspired by Trump’s first indictment, was the evening showstopper. But there’s plenty of competition with a catalog as extensive as Rainbow’s. “Don’t Arraign on His Parade” — this one provoked by the Georgia indictment — brought out the singer’s Funny Girl brio.

Original material was intermixed with viral videos. Marc Shaiman collaborated with Rainbow on the show's title song, “Randy Rainbow for President,” and Alan Menken co-wrote with Rainbow “Pink Glasses,” a song about the star’s signature accessory, which represents not only a bold fashion choice but a gently accepting way at looking at the world.

Mockery of all things Trump was the main order of business. Rainbow knows his audience, an older demographic (or at least older than I expected). A good percentage of those in attendance seemed on furlough from their nightly MSNBC marathon. Not a Lindsey Graham or Kim Davis joke sneaked past this politically astute crowd.

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene was roasted to a blond crisp in a revamped version of “Look at me I'm Sandra Dee” from “Grease.” I was hoping Rainbow would do an all-out version of his "Evergreen" MTG spoof, but singing that live would have been risky and hearing the controversial Georgia representative described as "Trump with a purse, only worse" was worth the price of admission. The cultural warmongering of Gov. Ron DeSantis got spanked in “Welcome to DeSantis,” a bouncy borrowing from the musical “Hairspray” that rubbed LGBTQ+ salt in the failed Republican challenger’s self-inflicted wounds.

Rainbow had teased that he would be breaking news at his L.A. engagement, and I wondered if he might be announcing that “Randy Rainbow for President” was heading to Broadway. As it turned out, the news was about a new book he’d be releasing in the fall, “Low-Hanging Fruit: Sparkling Whines, Champagne Problems, and Pressing Issues from my Gay Agenda,” a follow-up to his 2022 memoir “Playing With Myself.”

In this agonizing election year, it would be a public service for Rainbow to bring his comic relief campaign to Broadway. But his well-manicured show would first need a theatrical boost.

Drag queen backup singers would help, to dispense with the low-hanging fruit. But Rainbow, who has a modesty about him, needs to be more ferociously unleashed. It sometimes seemed as if he might prefer to deliver his snarky quips via the safety of social media. Perhaps a bigger team of writers could give him the assurance that he had the comic goods.

On video, Rainbow’s voice is remarkably adaptable, almost chameleon-like in its abilities. Over the course of a full show, without recourse to editing, its limitations become apparent. Not that he’s not tremendously gifted, but he needs to share the stage.

Read more: Randy Rainbow reveals the man behind the glitter — and how his father was like Trump

A Broadway presentation of “Randy Rainbow for President” would benefit from guest stars. Imagine if his partner-in-parody Patti LuPone made a cameo to perform her duet with Rainbow, “If Donald Got Fired,” a sendup of “If Momma Was Married” from “Gypsy.” Broadway could use a good variety show, and Rainbow has that same quality that made his beloved friend Carol Burnett the quintessential variety show host — ecstatic fandom.

More glitter, more special effects (Rainbow, who has a fey, puckish presence, really ought to fly across the stage at least once, à la Sandy Duncan in "Peter Pan") and a little more comic danger. “Randy Rainbow for President” is diverting in its present form, but a critic can dream of a more souped-up edition that would theatrically draw out the brilliance of this internet sensation.

Sign up for L.A. Goes Out, a weekly newsletter about exploring and experiencing Los Angeles from the L.A. Times.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.