Barack Obama created a worldwide sensation last year when he ran for the presidency of the United States. His victory was celebrated worldwide, from Hong Kong to New Delhi to Soweto, as he became the first African American to ever elected to the nation’s highest office. His personal narrative, an integral part of his campaign speeches and a source of endless controversy, became one of the best known biographies in the world practically overnight. So I was prepared for an onslaught of films and documentaries that would revolve around his improbable journey. It is the popularity of the Obama story as a musical production that has taken me by surprise.
The Kenyans were the first out of the gate with their offering, Obama the Musical, a congratulatory tribute to the first U.S. president to have a Kenyan born father. Obama on My Mind followed after the president’s inauguration with a debut in London. And now Hope!, premiering later this month in Germany, is being billed as an all singing, all dancing production that portrays Barack Obama’s trials and triumphs on the way to becoming the 44th president of the United States.
Since the only musical I’ve ever been to was The Lion King, I’m not qualified, even after reading the reviews, to make any theatrical judgment on these efforts. In fact, the only musical about an American president that comes to mind is Dolly Madison. If a production company in the states comes up with their own original musical version of this story though, you will probably find me in the audience.