Irrational Exuberance: Audiences Love Broadway Hit 'Greenspan'

Apr 1, 2019
Originally published on April 2, 2019 10:33 am

Editor's note on April 2, 2019: This story was an April Fools' joke.

A musical inspired by the Broadway hit about Alexander Hamilton tells the story of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

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All right, "Hamilton" fans, get ready for your next obsession. A new show inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway hit about Alexander Hamilton could end up eclipsing it. Reporter Jen Sands-Windsor has the story.

JEN SANDS-WINDSOR, BYLINE: For composer-director Christylez Bacon, it was a no-brainer.

CHRISTYLEZ BACON: I always grew up hearing about him - you know, Alan Greenspan, Alan Greenspan. You know, we in the carry-outs, Alan Greenspan - you know what I'm saying? - making that green, Alan Greenspan. I just found him to be, you know, an inspiration. I mean, the way he managed interest rates in the '90s, the drama of the dot-com bust - I mean, people forget about that history, you know? They be sleeping on him.

SANDS-WINDSOR: "Hamilton" for him was like a light bulb going off.

BACON: Yeah, man, when I saw "Hamilton," I knew that the next story that needed to be told would be the story of Alan Greenspan.

SANDS-WINDSOR: A self-described progressive hip-hop artist, this was Christylez Bacon's first musical, a challenge he was eager to take on. He points to the parallels with Alexander Hamilton. There's the influence on the American economy. Hamilton was Treasury secretary. Greenspan was chair of the Federal Reserve. They both lived in Manhattan, and both attended Columbia University.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "GREENSPAN")

BACON: (Rapping) Born March 6, 1926, up in Washington Heights with that NYC grit, parents were together but divorced after this. Moms worked around the clock day and night to get that Swiss. Times...

SANDS-WINDSOR: As a young man, Greenspan was a serious clarinet player. He even studied music at the prestigious Juilliard School. But as you see in the play, his heart is with economics.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "GREENSPAN")

BACON: (Rapping) The factors which govern market prices of assets and impact and the other key, balance sheet, variables have on the aggregate investment process.

SANDS-WINDSOR: That number is called "Going To Leave Juilliard, Going To Study Economics" (ph). Later we see Greenspan spending time with his friend Ayn Rand at her weekly gatherings, debating taxation.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "GREENSPAN")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Rapping) Taxation is immoral.

BACON: (Rapping) Then how can you decide to finance all the essential functioning of government?

SANDS-WINDSOR: Most of the play, though, traces the five terms Alan Greenspan spent as chair of the Fed. In fact, some of the music just sets Greenspan's most famous speeches to a beat, like the song "The Simple Notion Of Price" (ph), which draws from his 1996 speech to the American Enterprise Institute.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "GREENSPAN")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Rapping) Indeed how will we measure inflation and the associated financial and real implications?

SANDS-WINDSOR: Critical reception has been irrationally exuberant, and audience interest has been high - sold-out crowds, standing ovations, six curtain calls every night.

(CHEERING)

SANDS-WINDSOR: Word has spread quickly, and now tickets are hard to get. On a recent Wednesday, the line snaked around the block. Shmuel Greenglass was in the crowd.

SHMUEL GREENGLASS: I've been lining up, and I still have not gotten tickets yet. I've just been listening to the album on repeat. It is so good.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Rapping) Created financial and real implications - yeah.

SANDS-WINDSOR: Jing Mei Lee has already seen it and is back for more.

JING MEI LEE: This is already in the pantheon of musicals. Like, you've got "Les Mis," "Cats," "Greenspan." It's also popular with the man himself, Alan Greenspan, who is now 93 years old.

ALAN GREENSPAN: It's been a lifelong dream to see my life depicted in song.

SANDS-WINDSOR: He is thrilled with the show. On opening night, he sat in the front row, beaming. For NPR News, I'm Jen Sands-Windsor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "GREENSPAN")

BACON: Green...

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Rapping) How does one evaluate the price change of a (unintelligible) operation over 10-year period when the...

[Editor's Note: This story was an April Fools' joke.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.