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Will Ferrell relives 8 years of George W. Bush

Ferrell’s Broadway show is a merciless and often blisteringly funny raunch roast of the former chief executive who left the Oval Office less than three weeks ago.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Already feeling masochistically nostalgic for the misadventures of the previous presidential administration?

You can relive those eight years — and more — in “You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush,” Will Ferrell’s merciless and often blisteringly funny raunch roast of the former chief executive who left the Oval Office less than three weeks ago.

Ferrell wrote and stars as Bush in this 90-minute satiric biography, which opened Thursday at the Cort Theatre. The actor, a former “Saturday Night Live” regular and now a full-fledged movie star, seems totally at ease on a big Broadway stage.

His initial entrance couldn’t be more theatrically high-flying, but let’s not spoil too much of the surprise. Once on stage, he struts and swaggers. His movements suggest a gunfighter at the OK Corral. So does his twangy sagebrush accent, which is right in line with Bush’s reinvention of himself as a tried and true Texan — who happened to have been born in Connecticut and then went to Yale University.

Physically, the lanky actor is done up in a coifed mop of gray hair and for much of the time in a crisp white shirt and power tie — that is until he dons a flight outfit for Bush’s premature “Mission Accomplished” moment about the Iraq War.

The evening’s format is direct address. Ferrell talks right to the theater audience about the Bush family and then segues into the man’s political career — first as governor of Texas and then as president.

The facts are not particularly revelatory, none that a reader of daily newspapers (and there must be few left) won’t know. It’s what Ferrell does with them that counts, taking off on wild riffs that produce giddy waves of laughter.

No one escapes Ferrell’s sharp, often naughty sense of humor, starting with members of the Bush clan. Fans of Bush’s mother, Barbara, will not be too pleased with his steely description of the family’s matriarch.

Ferrell works his way through the ex-president’s two terms with a photo display of all the man’s Cabinet members and some choice comments, particularly about Donald Rumsfeld. Of course, there’s also a special shout-out to his vice president, Dick Cheney. And foreign leaders come in for a few jabs, too.

“You’re Welcome America” is not exactly a one-man show. There are several other performers including a breakdancing Secret Service agent, played by Ferrell’s brother, Patrick, who, weirdly enough, is a John Belushi lookalike. Then there’s a sexy Condoleezza Rice, portrayed by Pia Glenn who delivers what can only be described as a pole dance (without the pole) worthy of any high-priced “gentlemen’s club.”

Director Adam McKay, a longtime Ferrell collaborator, never lets the jokes flag. Projections keep famous faces flying by as Bush talks about his two terms in office.

Will Ferrell’s wonderful world

Slideshow  25 photos

Will Ferrell’s wonderful world

The actor’s crazy characters rule small screens and large, from “Saturday Night Live” to “Land of the Lost.”

Ferrell’s interplay with the audience is sharp. Late in the evening, there’s a segment where he asks theatergoers their names and their occupation. Then he comes up with nicknames, something Bush was fond of doing for his friends.

As a thinker, Ferrell is a lot faster with a quip than the bumbler he is impersonating. But then he is in the business of entertainment. Now maybe we can put the Bush years behind us — and Ferrell wants us to do it with a laugh.

“You’re Welcome America” is scheduled to run into mid-March and will be shown on HBO.