In July 2008, Barack Obama gave a speech before an adoring crowd of 200,000 Germans in Berlin. Democrats hailed the performance as JFK-esque, while Republicans accused the then-presidential candidate of being little more than a grandstanding celebrity. But even Democratic partisans are likely to cringe at the notion of a fawning new German musical called Hope!, based on Obama’s presidential campaign, which premieres in Frankfurt on Jan. 17.
Written and conceived by the American composer Randall Hutchins, Hope! is a big-budget production with 30 cast members playing key figures in the election campaign—both Democrat and Republican—as well as citizens caught up in the excitement, including what the official website describes as “an Afro-American committed non-voter” and “a humorous Italo-American restaurant owner.”
A YouTube trailer features snippets of several production numbers, including a Barack-Michelle duet, and John McCain singing See You in November. Lead actor Jimmie Wilson resembles Jamie Foxx more than Obama; McCain is played by David Hanselmann, a popular German singer. Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton are portrayed by the same actress, Tracy Plester. Hope! is billed as an “interactive musical” that “tries to make the common experience convincingly tangible,” according to the show’s website. Audience members who find themselves once more inspired by the participatory message of Obama’s campaign can grab their “Sit & Hit percussion chairs,” which allow patrons to play along with the onstage music.
The Obama campaign also inspired another musical, Obama on My Mind, which had brief runs in London and Seattle; it featured the Sarah Palin character singing a song called Piggy With a Lipstick. The Guardian gave it one star.