How to Steal an Election

Original Off-Broadway Cast, 1968 (RCA/no CD) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) A young black man (Clifton Davis) and a young white woman (Carole Demas), both veterans of the disastrous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, somehow meet Calvin Coolidge (D.R. Allen), who essentially gives them a lesson in the various forms of chicanery that resulted in the election of many American presidents. Combining authentic songs from past political campaigns with Oscar Brand’s new book songs for the two young idealists, How to Steal an Election has Cal trying to convince the kids that at least some trickery is necessary for the system to work. (After the young woman sings “Mr. Might’ve Been,” about President Kennedy, Coolidge reveals that her hero was not above some questionable political maneuvers.) The new songs are of varying quality, the old songs are interesting and sometimes funny, and the show’s subject matter is surprisingly topical in the early years of the 21st century. But, of course, the lesson imparted here — that stealing elections is somehow a good thing — is highly debatable. — David Wolf