Ja we can: musical tribute to Obama premieres in Frankfurt

City makes song and dance of its love for President
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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands turned out in Berlin to pay tribute to Barack Obama even before he had been elected. Now, Germany has taken its adoration of the US President to a theatre in Frankfurt where he is the subject of a new and unashamedly politically correct musical.

Hope is the reverential title bestowed on a show that features a singing and dancing Barack Obama, his wife, Michelle, and a host of other US political heavyweights including a go-go dancing Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, who are played by the same actress.

At Sunday night's premiere, all of them joined hands on stage in Frankfurt's Jahrhunderthalle theatre as the Detroit actor Jimmie Wilson, who plays the President, led a chorus of singers in a rousing gospel rendition of the theme song, "Yes We Can".

The musical is a dramatisation of the victorious 2008 election campaign: extracts from Mr Obama's speeches are woven verbatim into the dialogue; Sarah Palin has a solo number, "Ich bin ein Pitbull"; and there's a lovers' duet between Mr and Mrs Obama.

The sub-plot focuses on the lives of a multicultural group of residents who share a Chicago apartment. They include a black American couple with the wife an active Obama supporter and her husband an incorrigible non-voter; an unemployed Puerto Rican immigrant; and a right-wing Republican widow of German descent. During the course of the three-hour show, they all become committed to the Obama cause after being converted by the future President's message of change.

However, the makers of Hope – The Obama Musical Story are adamant that this is not just a eulogy set to song. "In no way does Hope show Obama as a saint," they said in a pre-premiere statement. "The musical grants us a view behind the scene of his comet-like rise and also tells of his personal ups and downs."

The producers have found ways of allowing the audience to take part: the auditorium has specially designed seats, each equipped with its own built-in drum. "It's a powerful sound and a fantastic musical experience for the audience," said Roberto Emmanuele, one of Hope's producers.

It may seem to contain all the right ingredients for a side-splitting farce about US politics, but its makers are quite serious. "I had the initial idea right at the start of Obama's electoral campaign," said the author and composer Randall Hutchins. "I found the atmosphere exciting and that was my inspiration. People hoped change would result in a better life. It was a beautiful, very social time."

Hutchins was born in Michigan and hopes to take the show to the US eventually, but he chose to launch in Germany to capitalise on the nation's love affair with Barack Obama.

More than 200,000 rapturous Germans turned out on the streets of Berlin in the summer of 2008, when Mr Obama made his only pre-election visit to a European capital. An opinion poll published at the end of last year showed that 44 per cent of Germans considered the US President to be their political role model, which put him well ahead of the almost universally admired former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

However, there was an injection of sober reflection in some quarters of the German media yesterday. "After a year of Obama in the White House, reality has caught up with all the joy exuded by this musical," wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper. "Even if all the actors try to be as excited, hopeful and happy as humanly possible."