Ryan Chartrand

Forget about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain – the biggest election event of the century is coming to the World Rhythm and Motion Center in San Luis Obispo.

For two weekends in April, George W. Bush and a singing nun named Sister Dominiqee-niqee-nique will vie to become the head of the Catholic Church in “POPE II: A Holy, Political, Musical Cabaret.”

The show, brainchild of local comedian and playwright Gale McNeeley, is the most recent incarnation of 2006’s highly acclaimed “POPE: The Musical.” It follows the same plot as the original, but has been reworked to remain humorous and relevant to today’s news.

According to McNeeley, “The inspiration (to bring the show back) is the change in today’s political climate.”

The satire is no longer aimed solely at “Dubya” and the Catholic Church. It pokes fun at the latest crop of presidential candidates as well as the “American Political Idol Campaign” currently captivating the country.

“It’s hard for Dubya to be funny anymore,” said McNeeley, who plays the role of the great decider. “We’re equal opportunity pokers.”

For those who missed the first “POPE,” it is definitely your garden-variety musical.

Reminiscent of a vaudeville review on speed, improvisation and audience participation ensure that individual performances are unique. Each show includes a question-and-answer segment where audience members can grill the candidates. The actors, never breaking character, have to either come up with the right answers or avoid and defer, like real politicians.

“There is a script, but it’s just not your average theater experience,” said Christina Landeros, a recent addition to the cast. “It’s fluid, not mechanical. It’s more intimate because there are only four actors and we play everything.”

Landeros’ favorite role? A rapping Saddam Hussein.

“It’s not supposed to be good because Saddam’s not a rapper,” she said. “But it is supposed to be funny . and it’s definitely that.”

“POPE II” previews Friday at the World Rhythm and Motion Studio, located at 150 South St., and officially opens Saturday. It will play at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 p.m. Sundays through April 20. There is a suggested donation of $15 for general admission and $10 for students. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (805) 925-1882.

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