Surely you’re familiar with ‘Hamilton’. It was the musical that brought Lin-Manuel Miranda to success and garnered acclaim and awards wherever it went, blending history with modernity through its hip-hop and pop rhythms. Many rightfully applauded the unique blend it presented, and quite a few were captivated by its charm. You can even watch the complete production on Disney+! Yes. But. Did you know that before ‘Hamilton,’ there was a musical dedicated to Barack Obama… that was exclusively performed in Germany?
Yes, we can… dance!
20th of January, 2009. Barack Obama wins the election and becomes the 44th President of the United States of America. At the same time, in Cologne, Germany, a man named Randall Hutchins decides that this momentous occasion deserves not just a play, but a full-blown musical. With his expertise in musical composition, he begins to fill pages and staffs with songs, eventually completing ‘Hope! Das Obama Musical’. One year after the presidential election, in January 2010, it premieres in Frankfurt to a surprisingly packed audience.
The story begins in the suburbs of Chicago and gradually makes its way to the 2008 elections. John McCain shouts, “I’ll see you in November!” Hillary Clinton promises to be “ready on day one,” and Sarah Palin sings and dances with a group of performers while calling herself the “Pitbull mom.” But the musical had one more surprise: it was interactive.
And by “interactive,” I mean that each seat was equipped with either a percussion system for everyone to play certain songs with the orchestra or maracas. Thousands of people making noise at the same time. The first performance of ‘Hope’ filled all 2,000 seats in the theater, received applause, and was covered by the press around the world. And then, what happened? How is it possible that there was a musical about Obama and you hadn’t heard about it until now?
Well, after that first performance, there wasn’t much more. Despite plans for a tour in Germany and the United States, it remained a brilliant premiere followed by a subsequent downfall, apparently due to a lack of sponsors. Songs like ‘Yes we can’ or ‘Rock the vote’ faded from the collective imagination, and Obama would never have his own musical. Or maybe…?
“Barack Obama exclaims, ‘Of all the musicals about my presidency, this is one of them'”: This is the promotional phrase for ’44, the Obama musical,’ which was performed for a few months in the United States and is more of a parody than anything else. But at least the legend of ‘Hope’ has a successor. Whether he likes it or not.
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