WHAT “The Terms of My Surrender”
WHERE Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.
INFO $29-$149; 212-239-6200, telecharge.com
BOTTOM LINE Michael Moore preaches to the choir.
Michael Moore’s agenda was never in question.
When the Oscar-winning documentarian announced his show in May, a sign next to him asked, “Can a Broadway show bring down a sitting President?” In the run-up to opening night, he was everywhere — Facebook, Twitter, “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Morning Joe.” By the time “The Terms of My Surrender” opened at the Belasco Theatre on Thursday night, you had to wonder if you’d already heard it all.
Entering to a major ovation, Moore (who, you’ll recall, had predicted a Trump victory) opened with a rehash of points he’s been making in recent weeks: Hillary Clinton should have gone to Wisconsin and Michigan, the Electoral College did us in, Democrats need to get it together. “Donald Trump outsmarted us all,” he said. More cheers, but then it’s always been pretty clear that coming to Broadway meant Moore would be preaching to the choir.
It’s hard to classify the production, directed by Tony winner Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” “American Idiot”), as theater. Basically, it is a two-hour mishmash of campaign rally, personal anecdotes, comedy sketches, talk show, one powerful segment on the water crisis in Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, and a sorry attempt at a Broadway finale — male strippers and a takeoff of “Dancing With the Stars.” Seriously?
A bit on TSA regulations provided some chuckles, before morphing into an exploration of a 2020 Moore presidential bid (though on “The View,” he pushed a Tom Hanks-Oprah Winfrey ticket). Moving on, he talked about his early activism — at 17, a speech taking on discrimination at the Elks Club, traveling to Germany to disrupt Ronald Reagan’s plans to lay flowers on the graves of SS officers.
Then someone was knocking from behind the set: Bryan Cranston, the evening’s “surprise” guest (the night before it was Rep. Maxine Waters, and Colbert promised he’d show at some point). The two riffed on “Breaking Bad,” Cranston’s Tony-winning performance as LBJ and, natch, Trump. No mention, by the way, of the bunting-draped box Moore’s holding in case the president drops by during the 12-week run.
Embedded in all this was the motivational message Moore has cited as a primary objective of the show, a repeated call to action. “One person can make a difference,” he implored. That message might have been taken more seriously had the last thing you saw on stage not been Moore in a sparkly red baseball cap cavorting with those guys who’d stripped down to sequined bikini bottoms.