The Other Bono
Chaz Bono’s ‘Independence Day’: Strippers, Racism & More Crazy Moments
Anna Klassen on Chaz Bono’s ‘Independence Day’ musical spoof, which includes strippers and boy bands.
Remember that scene in Independence Day when Will Smith’s character forms a boy band with his Marine colleagues? We don’t either. But in Brooke Seguin’s musical satire of the 1996 Roland Emmerich blockbuster—about an alien invasion of earth and the human race’s attempt to defeat them—boy bands, strippers, and tap-dancing politicians all are essential to the plot.
Independence Day, currently on a limited run in Los Angeles as part of 30 Minute Musicals, stars Chaz Bono as the POTUS, as he acts, sings, and shows off some of those Dancing With the Stars–inspired moves.
“There’s nothing else like this,” said Bono, speaking to The Daily Beast after Sunday night’s performance. “You get to play and do things you don’t usually get to do acting,” he reasoned. “This is my second show with them. I initially came to see Top Gun and Showgirls here, and that’s what made me want to be part of [Independence Day]. I’m hooked.”
Before Sunday night’s show, a line wrapped around the side of the Celebration Theatre as boisterous patrons waited to pick up their tickets for the sold-out show. Once inside, the crowd—mainly a younger, West Hollywood crowd—scrambled to get the best seats in the house (which was practically every seat, as the theater is only three rows deep). Unlike the multiplexes that housed Independence Day back in the mid-’90s, the musical satire unfolded in a cozy room with about 75 seats, red walls, and a live band that consisted of a keyboardist and drummer.
And seated in the audience, there was Bono’s mother, famed singer-songwriter Cher, who watched her son perform with intent eyes, often laughing along with her group of a few friends. Although she vacated soon after the metaphorical curtains closed, Cher took to Twitter to praise her son’s show: “re’30 Minute Musical.’Its SO Creative..Actors R Amazing,& Speaking of Amazing,CHAZ WAS ‘GR8’,& Im Not just MOM Talking,I’m ACTOR.”
The musical rendition included many of the original film’s most memorable scenes, each one condensed for the stage and performed in only about a minute, with some scenes encompassing mere seconds. Props for the stage included chairs, a surgeon’s table, and a piece of paper—cut in the shape of a circle—that read, “THE MOON. Get over it.”
Performing without visible microphones, the constant eruption of laughter and applause from the interactive audience was often so raucous that it was difficult to hear the actors deliver their lines. (In a play that’s only 30 minutes long, every syllable is crucial to the storyline.) But in case you can’t catch the L.A. show before it wraps up its run later this week, The Daily Beast has rounded up the eight most ridiculous moments from Independence Day, the musical.
In the world of this version of Independence Day, an African-American astronaut (like Will Smith’s Capt. Steven Hiller, played here by Tommy Hobson) has a special name, the oh-so racist categorization of “blastronaut.” Seguin said of the term (which naturally, has a musical number to accompany it): “A couple of friends of mine, we like to use that term,” she said, before quickly adding, “That sounds racist.” On the word’s inception, she said, “I have a friend who has a boyfriend, and he’s an architect ... We call him a ‘blarkatect.’”
Integrated into the song and dance are choir members who crooned along to Hobson’s vocals in the background, one by one holding up photos of real-life black astronauts. “From 1996, I think there have been about 13,” said Seguin. “We shout out six in the show.”
As if having a song titled “Blastronaut” wasn’t subversive enough, the character Julius Levinson, the outwardly Jewish father of computer expert David (played by Seguin), offered many uncomfortable laughs. “I loved the film when I was young,” Seguin said. “When you revisit it as an adult, you see that it’s kind of ... racist. It’s like, hold on, 1996!” And Seguin plays one of the more anti-Semitic representations. “My character is so, so racist,” she said. “A lot of those lines ... I mean, I didn’t write those lines.” For example, when visiting the White House, Seguin yelled, “Check for a free pen!” And near the end of the play, Seguin offered an allusion to Fiddler on the Roof, yelling, “Sunrise, sunset!” as she scampered off stage.
(2) Jurassic Park Shout-Out
While most scenes in the musical, albeit very short and jumbled, made sense, one thing had some playgoers scratching their heads: the lab technicians operated on aliens while wearing Jurassic Park lab coats. “We always call back to something from our previous shows,” explained Seguin. “We like to reuse props, costumes, wigs—a shout-out for audiences who have seen all our shows and can call back to something they’d recognize.”
(3) Jasmine’s Day Job
Jasmine Dubrow, the love interest for Hiller’s character in the film, is a stripper, has a child with another man, and is a dolphin fanatic. In the 30-minute version, these three aspects are played up with revealing costumes, a dark-skinned doll that acts as her child, and a tiny dolphin figurine found inside Hiller’s pants pocket, a “gift” from Jasmine. In a song that takes place at the strip club where she works, Jasmine wore a bra and thong, showcased her “moves” for the audience, and made dolphin noises through her teeth. “I’m a stripper ... and I love dolphins,” she sang.
(4) Pseudo–Jeff Goldblum
With his choker necklace, unbuttoned shirt, and unkempt chest hair, Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson is an eccentric in himself. But played on stage by Michael Bernardi, the character took on new meaning, delivering off-the-wall one-liners and an obsession with being green. “Is this the end of the world?” Bernardi shrieks as aliens invade. “Did all my recycling even matter?”
(5) Current Pop-Culture References
(6) Chaz’s Meltdown
“My favorite scene is the monologue at the end,” said Bono. “I watched the movie a lot, of course. The performance of my character in the movie is somewhat dry. You try to heighten it a little bit and cheese it up for this kind of thing.” And cheese it up he does. By the end of his “I will not go quietly into the night!” monologue, Bono was shaking and screaming at the top of his lungs, his fists clenched tightly.
(7) The Dog
Portraying Boomer, Jasmine’s loyal dog, Kirby Slager wore a furry full bodysuit, complete with black circles painted over her eyes and an always-protruding tongue. She pranced across the stage on all fours, often sniffing other characters’ bottoms, rolling on her back for a belly rub, and licking actors’ faces as they deliver lines, and even gave rides on her back to Jasmine’s child—a plastic doll, that is.
(8) Plausible Deniability
“Plausible deniability” is a term coined by the CIA during the Kennedy administration that describes withholding information from senior officials, like the president, to protect them from repercussions in the event that illegal activities come to light. Here, it’s also a song-and-dance number—tap dancing and jazz hands included.