Baghdaddy tells the story behind the gathering of evidence on “weapons of mass destruction” that fuelled the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It’s an all too plausible tale of egos and mix-ups whereby an Iraqi asylum-seeker, codename Curveball, peddles WMD “secrets” that are, ironically, already in the public domain. The story is told in a series of vignettes from five participants at an AA-style meeting, each coming to terms with “how I started the Iraq War”.
The original version (which has had successful runs off Broadway) translates quite neatly into the new normal of – what else? – a Zoom meeting. The creative team, headed by director Neil Gooding and music director Steven Kreamer, have installed seven actors in separate rooms in the same house, with an eighth room full of the stuff to bring it all together, expertly driven by technical director Michael Goodyer.
It’s a compelling show. Blake Erickson and Katrina Retallick dazzle in a multitude of roles gluing the individual testimonies together, while Troy Sussman, as Curveball, bundles desperation and charm as he delivers the showstopper of the evening, Speak to me tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jerry Samuel, the geeky CIA analyst, is beautifully underplayed by Adam Rennie, making the final scene all the more trenchant.
Does it work as a livestream? Yes, for the most part. The ingenuity is compelling, from visual comedy as punches get thrown from one screen to another, to the energy of individual performers making their story jump out of the box. Big ensemble numbers are less successful, with limited choreography and the inevitable lack of spectacle exposing the score’s reliance on overworked musical tropes. But thank goodness for that because, truth be told, we want the performers back on stage and the audience back in their seats as soon as possible.