#125 First Daughter Suite (feat. Adam Wachter)

The original post for this episode can now be found here.

Transcriptions by: Masha Latvinava

First Daughter Suite – Episode #125 – January 21, 2021

JESS: Hello, I’m Jesse McAnally.

ANDREW: And I'm Andrew DeWolf.

BRIANNA: And I'm Brianna Jones.

ADAM: And I'm Adam Wachter.

JESS: And welcome to Musicals with Cheese, a podcast where I try to get Andrew and Bree to like musical theater. I remembered from the last time we had him on, he wanted to do it. So I gave him the time to finally introduce himself with us normies.

ADAM: Thank you.

JESS: I want to welcome this week's very special guest. You mostly probably know him as a guest on Musicals with Cheese. He hasn't done anything else. But in case you have seen him do anything else, he’s the composer of –

ADAM: That’s probably true at this point, that’s the thing.

JESS: He's the host of the – well, not the host - He is the composer of Tarrytown, which is one of my favorite musicals of all time. It's a great, great show. You will also recognize –

ANDREW: You will rope one out to it, it’s great.

JESS: Rub one out. You will also remember him from Encore! on Disney Plus, which is honestly one of the greatest things on Disney Plus. I hope they get a second season one of these days when theater comes back. Here's hoping.

ADAM: Here’s hoping.

JESS: Come to my production of Into the Woods, that'll be a fun time.

ADAM: Okay. Do you know what I’m watching on Disney Plus now that I'm loving? On Pointe. Is anybody watching it?

JESS: I have just started the first episode. I have not gotten past that.

ADAM: I love it. It's like Cheer but it's the School of American Ballet in New York. And it's just fascinating. They work so hard. It's like little kids and then they become high school - Remember - You've seen Center Stage, I assume. It's like Center Stage but real.

JESS: Yeah, it's like Black Swan but real.

ADAM: Yeah.

JESS: And Adam, Adam - you are actually entering an exclusive club today that only one other person has ever entered. You are entering the Five Timer Club today. The Five Timer Club.

ADAM: I’ve not been here five times.

JESS: You have been on five times. Do we want to go through it? We did it with Brent.

ANDREW: Are you sure about this?

JESS: I am sure. First time, Merrily. Alright?

ADAM: Oh, I forgot about Merrily. Yeah, okay.

JESS: Then you came on for Hello, Dolly! And we also interviewed you. Those were two separate episodes.

ADAM: Oh, I didn't realize those were separate episodes.

JESS: Yeah, and there's one more in between there. And this brings us to five. Because of course we did Terrytown. And now this.

ANDREW: That’s five.

ADAM: That’s five. Oh wow.

JESS: So Adam, I am going to ask you to send me your address over text - not over on the air - and you will be receiving a fabulous gift.

ADAM: What is it?

JESS: You will find out when it arrives, sir. But welcome to the Five Timer Club. Add applause.


ADAM: Oh my god. This is the first thing I've won in years.

JESS: Do you have anything to say for yourself? What’s your acceptance speech?

ADAM: Well, I just want to thank, you know, the both of you for having me on five times obviously.

ANDREW: Really, you couldn’t have done it without us.

ADAM: All your support. No, I really couldn't have. I'd like to –

JESS: Alright, he’s going too long. Play him off, play him off. Start the music.

(Music plays)

ADAM: - thank my empty schedule for allowing me to participate this many times. No, thank you, though. What an honour.

JESS: Oh, I’m sorry. The award is supposed to go to Moonlight. But no, Adam - We really love having you on. You're one of our favorite guests and this will not be the last time you're on. Always a joy to have you on. And now that we've stalled for nearly five minutes – five minutes of an episode wasted on this. Adam, what are we talking about this week?

ADAM: We're talking about First Daughter Suite.

JESS: Cue the music, Bree.

(Opening plays)

JESS: The First Daughter Suite is a musical with music, lyrics and book by John Michael LaChiusa.


JESS: The First Daughter Suite is a musical with music, lyrics and book by Michael John LaChiusa based on the daughters of the President. It premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater under the direction of Christie Sanderson on October 6, 2015.

ADAM: Kirsten Sanderson.


JESS: The First Daughter Suite is a musical with music, lyrics and book by Michael John LaChiusa based on the daughters of the President. It premiered Off-Broadway at the Public Theater on October 21, 2015. And it closed on November 22, 2015. It was nominated for seven Drama Desk Awards. The plot of which is a historical fantasia in four parts. The First Daughter Suite follows Patricia Nixon and the daughters, Tricia and Julie, Rosalynn and Amy Carter, Betty and Susan Ford, Patti Davis and mom Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush and daughter-in-law Laura as they strive to live meaningful lives in the public eye.

ADAM: What does that mean - based on the daughters of the President? What is that?

JESS: I don’t fucking know. That's what Wikipedia said. It wasn't even a book. It was like, “It was based on the daughters of the President.”

ADAM: I mean, based on their lives, yeah.

JESS: It was a really short Wikipedia article.

ANDREW: “The daughters of the President” is a bit weird cus –

JESS: “The presidents.”

ANDREW: The President isn't an entity, but -

JESS: He's a public figure. So Adam –


JESS: I asked you to come on to this. Because when I interviewed you - well, it has to be well over a year now - You brought up this is one of your favorite musicals.

ADAM: I did?

JESS: Yes.

ANDREW: He's like, “Wait, what? What was I smoking?”

ADAM: I have no recollection of that. I would not say this at – Oh shit, really?

ANDREW: Did he actually say that?

JESS: Yes, he did.

ADAM: I said First Daughter Suite is one of my favorite musicals?

JESS: Yeah, I think you might have even - You might have said it was one of your favorite Michael John LaChiusa musicals.

ADAM: Huh.

ANDREW: Well, we're gonna take you out of context to make it more interesting.

ADAM: Okay. Well, it’s not.

ANDREW: Do you still agree with that statement?

JESS: Do you suddenly hate this musical is my question?

ADAM: No, I don't hate this musical. I do think this is a brilliant musical. I saw it in New York. And I loved it. I would not say it's one of my favorite musicals. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite Michael John musicals. But I think it's like all his other musicals, I think it's brilliant and entertaining, and a beautiful show. So, I do love the show. So that's not wrong. I don't know if I would say it's a favorite just because I actually don't know it that well. And I haven't learnt the show in the same way I have some of his others where I've listened to them so much or seen multiple productions - You know, Wild Party, Queen of the Mist, shows like that. But I did see it and I did very much appreciate it. So, I'm happy to talk about it.

ANDREW: Jess put you on the spot in an interview and you just blurted out the first thing that came to your mind –

ADAM: It’s probably my fault. I probably did say that at some point. And there's probably a clip but who knows? My tastes vary, you know. Maybe one day my favorite show is First Daughter Suite. And the next day, it's Cats. Who can say? It's not Cats.

JESS: Yeah, it's never Cats. I can say with confidence, it will never be Cats.

ADAM: No, no, no. It was Cats for a very brief period when I was a child.

JESS: Oh, so it was once Cats?

ADAM: It was once Cats, but I was probably, you know, eight years old at the time, and I went to see the national tour in Michigan. And my parents bought me an extra-large size Cats logo t-shirt, and I used to belt it like a dress and I would safety pin Halloween costume cat's tail onto the back of the belt. And I would crawl around my house like a cat from Cats.

JESS: Beautiful.

ANDREW: This is what Cats does to people.

ADAM: It turns them gay.

JESS: Just be glad you're not a furry, Adam.

ADAM: Well -

ANDREW: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

ADAM: Not that there’s anything wrong – I am not a furry. I'm glad I'm not a furry only because I think it would get awfully hot in there and those costumes are –

JESS: Expensive.

ADAM: Yeah.

ANDREW: Yeah, honestly, it looks like an expensive and uncomfortable hobby.

ADAM: And also one of the things that is enjoyable about having sex is you don't have to wear clothes. I have to tell you during this pandemic, I've been naked in my house all day every day unless I have to be on a Zoom call or something. I just wake up naked and then I watch tv naked.

ANDREW: He’s not wearing pants right now.

ADAM: I am wearing pants right now. But if you're home alone, which I have been for months, why would you put clothing on? It makes no sense to me. Unless you're doing construction work on your house.

JESS: What if you have body dysmorphia issues?

BRIANNA: What if you’re a Never Nude?

ADAM: Then don't have a mirror. Oh, cus you can look down? What if you’re a never-nude?

ANDREW: Never-nude?

ADAM: Have you not seen Arrested Development?

JESS: Yeah, Andrew.

ANDREW: I don't know about never-nudes. I'm not into that.

JESS: Speaking of never-nudes, let's talk about the First Daughter Suite. Adam - unlike me and Andrew, you actually had the opportunity to see this live. We were just dealing with the album and what that brings. So, I'm very curious - For one, what was it like to see it live? And what do you think we'd be missing out from the album?

ADAM: Well, an album - this is a very well made album. And it's very comprehensive. I think it's almost every word of the show. I don't think there's a lot you actually missing from the album.

ANDREW: It didn't seem like there was anything missing. I was able to follow the entire story and everything with no problems.

ADAM: Yeah, but what you miss is the visuals – obviously. It was a beautiful show to look at. The floor was like water underneath a clear sort of stage. And it was just very beautifully done. And then of course you miss the liveness of it of it happening live in front of you and not being pre-recorded -

JESS: Mary Testa spitting on you.

ADAM: You miss Mary Testa sitting on and, you know, seeing –

JESS: Sitting on me?

ADAM: Spitting, spitting. You miss seeing the actors’ faces. I mean, this cast of this musical was such a phenomenal cast. They are all top of their game musical theater actresses. So that was thrilling honestly, just to be watching them work. And then to work on material that is as excellent as this. It was a very, very exciting night in the theater. Definitely.

JESS: And now I'm going to take us out of the structure of that we usually do, which is just freeform discussion. Since there are a bunch of mini short plays here, I kind of want to talk about each segment in its own right – Take a moment talk about each segment. So are we ready to dive into the first one? Or do we have anything we want to prelude it with first?

ADAM: Well, I would just prelude it with saying that yes, there are four individual segments, but they are all of a piece and they are all connected. And I do think that while they stand alone, maybe in terms of plot and things, I think thematically it's very specific. You know, like how Theresa McCarthy plays ghosts in both of her segments. Every segment features water, the setting for it is some kind of water. And that's, you know, what the stage looked like. So that's all connected in that way. So, you know, I'm happy to discuss them separately, because they do stand alone, but they also of a piece. I don't think anyone would –

ANDREW: I kind of wanted to ask if there is a connective - what would you call it? A plot device or something that –

JESS: Framing device?

ANDREW: Framing device. Yeah, framing device. I wanted to ask if there was a framing device for this. Because in the album, they don't have that. But it seems like something they could have on a stage show?

ADAM: I don't think there was. There was an opening number with all of the women.


ADAM: But I think beyond that - and there was a finale where they all came back out - But I don't think there was any connective tissue visually or anything between the segments, no.


ADAM: Other than thematically.

ANDREW: Well, yeah. I mean.

JESS: See, you describe the water segments, and I don't want to harp too much on the visuals and all that or get too ahead of ourselves between our Breeview segment, but Ben Brantley describes it as vulgar, disgusting-sounding, and you just made it sounds so beautiful.

ADAM: What is - he says the show is vulgar? No.

JESS: He says the specific water elements are gross. Like he literally writes the word “yuck”.

ADAM: Oh, well – He doesn’t work there anymore.

JESS: Because of female anatomy of some sort.

ADAM: What? No, it's literally water. Like, the first segment is about rain. The second segment is about a boat on an ocean. The third segment is about a pool - or takes place, you know, at a pool. And the fourth one takes place looking out over the ocean. It's literally water.

JESS: I get it, but he was writing like, “Oh, they're all by water and they're women. Yuck.”

ADAM: Ben Brantley said that?

ANDREW: That is just bizarre. Is that true?

JESS: I think so.

ADAM: Well, Ben Brantley doesn't have a job anymore, so there you have it. I thought he gave a quite a good review. I skimmed it earlier.

JESS: He gave it a good review. Yeah, we're gonna have a segment - we'll get to that. We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves.

ADAM: Okay.

JESS: Well dive into Mr. Brantley in a bit. But let's start with the first section which is Happy Pat, between Patricia Nixon and her daughter – Shit, I don't even know which one’s which, now that I think about it. It's the Nixon family though.

(Never Surrender plays)

ANDREW: All the Nixons except for Richard Nixon.

JESS: Tricky Dick was missing that day.

ANDREW: Yeah, all the women. None of the Dick.

JESS: All right – Andrew. What happens in the scene? Describe it for us.

ANDREW: Okay. Oh boy, which one is the one that's actually planning the wedding? It's all –

JESS: That’s this one.

ANDREW: No, no, no, I mean which daughter?


JESS: Tricia.

ANDREW: Tricia is the one? Okay, so it's all at Tricia’s wedding and everything is going wrong because I guess it's gonna rain and Richard Nixon is also about to get caught for doing Watergate, which I guess is another water tie-in? There you go.

JESS: I mean, it's like rain on your wedding day, it's like Richard Nixon about to get impeached, you know. Alanis Morissette cut those lyrics out, but it was meant to be in there. It makes sense.

ANDREW: Yeah. But they're all fighting about it in - I mean, that's pretty much what's happening. That's about it. I mean, there's not much else to it.

JESS: This is, in my opinion, the weakest of all the stories. And maybe I'm the lame one and I'm just not seeing the genius here.

ANDREW: What I like about it is that everyone in Richard Nixon's family doesn't really like him that much, which is good.

JESS: Adam, what do you think?

ADAM: Well, here's the problem. Here's the problem with us talking about First Daughter Suite. Or with me talking about First Daughter Suite, certainly - is that I do not know enough historically to – Like, I did not know who these women were with the exception of obviously Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush, and sort of more contemporary figures. In terms of the daughters. I didn't know who any of them were. I had never heard of them. I don't know my American history, sadly. I was not alive for most of these sort of - what are they called - in the White House, you know, when you are elected, and you serve a term, I was not alive for most of these presidential terms, these presidential eras. So I think that knowing more about the daughters - And at the time, if you had been alive - if we had been alive - I think it would have been something we were aware of. We would have known that they had a wedding at the White House and that it was a very big deal. And that the president's daughter got married during his term. It would have been a huge thing. And of course, it being Nixon, who was so infamously impeached and Watergate and the whole situation -

ANDREW: Well, there’s the implication that the wedding is almost a ploy to cover up the media scandal that's about to happen.

ADAM: Yes. So, I think we would be able to appreciate a lot more if we had been around at that time. Or maybe you guys know more about the presidents and their children, but I don't.

JESS: Adam Wachter just OK Boomer’d Michael John LaChiusa. He just did it. It happened in front of you guys.

ANDREW: Just like, “Yeah, I mean, maybe it was like an old - ”

ADAM: No, I’m saying my - I'm shaming myself, if anything. And saying that I should be more informed and better educated about the presidential families in our nation's history, but I'm not. And I think that if I were, I'd be able to appreciate this musical so much more than I already do. That's what I think. it's specifically about this one. Because this one, you're right, not a lot happens in terms of plot. And certainly not like the second one, which is action/adventure territory, and the third one, which is almost like a play and family dynamics. The first one, I think, is maybe the hardest one to glean onto.

JESS: I mean, it's surprising that the one about Nixon, who is, in theory, the most infamous of all the presidents covered here - maybe aside from Bush, just because that's our lifetimes - but is the least interesting. With the least to say, so to say.

ADAM: Well, because it's not really about Nixon at the end of the day, it's about his wife and daughters. And I think he probably eclipsed them so much in terms of infamy because of all the scandal that we speak very little about them and we don't know that much about them, you know?

JESS: Or it could be that the celebrity culture of politicians’ families wasn't quite as big back then. As it ramped up – Like, we all know Chelsea Clinton, we all know about Susan Ford and such-

ANDREW: Hunter Biden.

JESS: Hunter Biden.

ANDREW: They won’t let us not know about him.