- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

CHICAGO | Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich doesn’t seem to mind being the butt of a theatrical joke.

Standing on a chair with his arms raised as if he were being crucified, he opened the Second City’s “Rod Blagojevich Superstar,” a parody of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Saturday night. The former Illinois governor appeared as himself in a comedy show that lampoons the rise and fall of his own political career.

A full house cheered as Mr. Blagojevich, who was removed from office in January and has pleaded not guilty to wide-ranging federal corruption charges, appeared onstage wearing a suit and tie.

“Where were you when I was impeached?” he asked the audience.

Portraying Mr. Blagojevich as greedy, tactless and hair-obsessed, the show opened in February and was supposed to end June 14. Production officials have extended it to Aug. 9 due to constant sold-out performances.

Mr. Blagojevich is accused of scheming to sell or trade President Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat and using the muscle of the governor’s office to get campaign donations. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Before the nearly hourlong show — which includes duets with an actor portraying Sen. Roland Burris, the Democrat Mr. Blagojevich appointed to succeed Mr. Obama — the ex-governor told the audience he hadn’t seen the production before, but assured them it was a “fictitious account” of his life.

Mr. Blagojevich also worked in an endorsement of his wife, Patti, a contestant on NBC’s reality show “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”

He asked people to vote for her to remain on the show, which asks viewers to decide which quasi-celebrity should leave a Costa Rican jungle.

NBC had wanted the former governor to compete, but U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over Mr. Blagojevich’s corruption case, refused to let him leave the country, so his wife joined the cast instead.

“In the tradition of Chicago politics, you can vote ten times,” Mr. Blagojevich joked. “Vote early and often.”

As soon as Mr. Blagojevich left the stage, cast members launched into a song that asks, “What kind of idiot sells a Senate seat?”

In the show, Patti Blagojevich was portrayed as cutthroat and foul-mouthed. One of the songs was an expletive-laden version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”

The former Illinois first lady, who has not been charged with wrongdoing, was famously labeled a “potty mouth” after the FBI said it recorded profanity-laced rants against critics of her husband.

When Mr. Blagojevich returned to the stage for the improv portion of the show, he was asked what he thought of the rock opera.

Grinning, he used an expletive.

Mr. Blagojevich told stories of his time in office. In one, he claimed that while he was governor, he liked to call the Chicago Cubs coaching staff to offer pitching advice.

Actors then used the stories as prompts for skits while Mr. Blagojevich watched them unfold.

Blagojevich spokesman Glenn Selig has declined to say how much the former governor would be paid for Saturday’s appearance, but said Mr. Blagojevich will make a donation to Gilda’s Club, a cancer support organization founded by Gilda Radner, a comedian and Second City alumna.

Actor Joey Bland, who portrayed Mr. Blagojevich by wearing a black turtleneck and helmet-like black wig, called it “the most surreal day of my life.”

A few audience members guffawed as Mr. Blagojevich earnestly thanked the cast for making people laugh, but he assured them he was being serious.

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