FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Braithwaite Brings His Own Brand of Hilarity to Hedgerow

by Jim Hilgen

For those who need a laugh after dealing with this winter’s weather, and are tired of watching Democrats and Republicans in Washington behaving badly, Rose Valley’s Hedgerow Theatre is a good place to be.

Tony Braithwaite brings his talent for mimicry and hilarity to Hedgerow Theatre with FIRST IMPRESSIONS, playing through March 26 in Rose Valley, PA.

Barrymore Award winner, Tony Braithwaite, who has been called “Philadelphia’s funniest comic actor,” is staging his one-man, satirical show at the historic theater. His FIRST IMPRESSIONS: TONY BRAITHWAITE’S HISTORICAL AND HYSTERICAL TAKE ON THE PRESIDENTS lampoons the Presidents, and all things political.

The show was fast paced, and the material, which at times seemed hackneyed and trite, was crisply delivered by Braithwaite, who developed the production as a showcase for his talents as an impressionist.

While technically a one-man show, Braithwaite was assisted by pianist Gina Giachero who backed him up on his musical numbers and Howie Brown, who portrayed a press corps of dozens. Brown flitted about the theater, tossing questions to Braithwaite’s numerous Presidents including Kennedy, Nixon, and Clinton. While initially funny, the wordplay that went into the reporters’ names, and the media outlets they represent grew tiresome, especially when they stretched the point in going for a laugh. Brown, however, should be commended for his energetic performance and for providing an excellent foil for Braithwaite’s comic characterizations.

For the most part Braithwaite carried of the impressions well, using physicality and well remembered presidential foibles in presenting his take on Presidents Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He really hit the mark though in his characterization of President Clinton, exhibiting that well remembered sense that the President from Hope was a chameleon, becoming whatever was needed in order to get the voters approval. The Clinton segment ended with a song, “Razzle Dazzle” that further drove home those character traits.

Other impressions of those in the political world included former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot, Former Vice President Al Gore, Winston Churchill and a particularly right on version of Sen. John McCain.

Braithwaite showed that his mastery of impressions was not limited to the political arena. During an ad-lib section referred to as “Auditions for America: the Movie” he spoofed well known personalities including Katherine Hepburn, Chris Rock, Michael Caine, Bill Cosby and Sean Connery. Of the many characterizations during this rapid fire segment, Braithwaite’s high energy rendition of Robin Williams was a high point. He also drew big laughs with his takes on Joan Rivers, actor Al Pacino and comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

Briefly moving away from impressions, Braithwaite exhibited his talents for ad libbing when he brought an audience member onstage for “Are You Smarter Than Howie’s 5th Graders?” During his interactions with “Stu” from Rose Valley, the actor showed his well-honed comic flair while sharing with the audience his great talent for improvisation and his engaging personality.

The Hedgerow Theatre set was minimal, and nicely done, featuring the Presidential Seal and red, white and blue bunting to convey the sense that a Presidential visit was occurring.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS runs about an hour, which is long enough for the audience to get plenty of laughs, and to get a feel for the great extent of Braithwaite’s talents, yet not so long that the material gets tired.

Mr. Braithwaite took time after the performance to chat with STAGE Magazine….view his video interview here….


This Special Event at Hedgerow Theater runs through March 26. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Sunday matinees on March 13 and 20 at 2 pm, and a special Wednesday matinee is set for March 23 at 1 pm. Ticket information is available at, or by calling 610-565-4211.

Written and Directed by Tony Braithwaite
March 10 – 26, 2011
Hedgerow Theatre
64 Rose Valley Road
Rose Valley, PA

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