Former Cuomo target gets some sort of reward through musical theater

ALBANY — If you think political corruption and prison don’t make good musical comedy themes, you’ve never seen the annual legislative correspondents’ show, where reporters roast and usurp politicians, from the governor to members of the local assembly.

This longstanding tradition, which was interrupted by the pandemic, may now have some competition from a true insider.

Political consultant Hank Morris, who spent more than two years behind bars on corruption charges involving pension fund investments a decade ago, has produced a show that fictionalizes his story but in which Andrew Cuomo is the star. one of the main characters.

It’s no impulsive beating of Cuomo now that he’s being forced out of office under his own cloud of scandal.

Morris wrote “A Turtle on a Fence Post” under the prisoner’s pen name 11R0731 – his prison ID card – while in state prison.

He spent just over two years behind bars after pleading guilty in 2010 to his role in paid bribery under former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who also went to jail.

Morris had accepted a fee for directing investments to the pension fund overseen by Hevesi. In addition to his jail term and confiscation of the money, he was barred from working in state government and securities.

The prosecutor was none other than Andrew Cuomo when he was still attorney general.

Now set to hit an off-Broadway theater in New York, Morris hopes the show will be successful enough to eventually premiere in Albany. The middle of the legislative season, he thinks, would be a good time for the show.

The show, he says, has a “universal message” about politics, the ups and downs of life and the idea that people create their own prisons but can break free if they choose.

It mainly takes place in a comedy club and in prison.

As the protagonist, Morris’ character is a comedian, who not only gets heckled by reporters who visit his club, but ends up being sent to jail after being locked up by Cuomo.

“The main antagonist is Andrew Cuomo,” he said.

The title, Morris explained, comes from a favorite saying of former President Bill Clinton. “If you see a turtle on a fence post, the former president likes to say, you know it didn’t do it on its own,” Morris said.

The fact that it’s coming out in October, just over a month after Cuomo stepped down, may be a bit of luck.

Still, Morris says the show doesn’t pay off entirely for the incumbent governor, though he draws similarities.

“I entered the state system on a correctional bus. It was a miscarriage of justice. He’s leaving in a truck, I saw, a U-Haul,” Morris said, referring to photos last week of movers emptying Cuomo’s belongings from the governor’s mansion.

He thinks Albany’s role as the state capitol and the history of the LCA show make the city an ideal location for his show, where he thinks many politicians, insiders and journalists would report.

In his previous life as a Democratic consultant advising Hevesi and campaigning for “marginal” or at-risk members of the Assembly, Morris himself appeared on a previous LCA show.

He said he wrote the script for a skit that former House Majority Speaker Sheldon Silver was supposed to perform but pulled out at the last minute. Silver, of course, was also ousted and convicted in his own scandal involving the awarding of public funds to law firm clients.

And while maintaining that he felt no schadenfreude witnessing Cuomo’s brutal downfall, Morris says he’s not surprised his career has come to this.

“I knew the emperor had no clothes a long, long time ago. I feel sorry for him,” he told The Times Union.

Morris said he thinks Cuomo struggled the wrong way to step out of his father Mario Cuomo’s shadow.

“He was tortured with the Socratic method from the age of two and he didn’t know how to go about it,” he said.

“A Turtle on a Fence Post” will be directed by Gabriel Barre, known for “The Wild Party” and “Amazing Grace,” with choreography by Kenny Ingram of “Emojiland.”

The musical arrangements are by Steve Orich, of “Jersey Boys”.

The show is scheduled to run for 10 weeks at Theater 555, 555 W 42nd Street, New York. Previews will begin in October with opening night scheduled for November 14.

[email protected] 518 248 6070 @RickKarlinTU