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Presidents On Stage

11.03.20

BY: PHEOBE HORIBE

Seeing as Election Day is finally upon us, we decided to take a quick look at some of the presidents that have been portrayed on stage. Not all Presidents are written equally — especially when you bring on comedic writers — but every creative team certainly has something to say about these past presidents. From our wish that our presidents were BIPOC and rapped the constitution, to silly satires about the flaws they possess, here’s some of the most memorable presidents we’ve seen on the Broadway stage over the years.

Andrew Jackson – Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson

This musical, which was directed by Alex Timbers (Beetlejuice, Moulin Rouge), is about the seventh president of the U.S., but not like you learned about in those history books. This Andrew Jackson is a sexy rockstar! I mean who wouldn’t want a rockstar as a president? There are worse things the president could be. Andrew Jackson didn’t win his first election due to corruption of the House of Representatives, but you know what they say; if at first you don’t succeed, make a brand new political party in your favor.

Lyndon B. Johnson – All The Way

It’s 1964 and its Johnson’s first year as the President after JFK was assassinated. The nation is mourning over the loss, but Johnson steps up and even gets reelected the following year. He was a supporter of the Civil Rights movement and was determined to make The Civil Acts Right of 1964 pass — and he did, but at what cost? Some arm-twisting and blackmailing got the Senate to pass the act. I guess you could say LBJ was “good trouble, necessary trouble.” Bryan Cranston played Lyndon B. Johnson on this roller coaster ride of a term as he faced many obstacles and went through an array of emotions. Cranston earned a well-deserved Tony award for his performance. 

Mr. President – Mr. President

Alright, did anyone know that there was a whole musical about a fictional president and his family by Irving Berlin? I certainly did not. It’s called Mr. President and it’s about President Henderson and his Secret Service agent who is in love with his daughter. Yeah, it’s an interesting plot. Plus, the Soviet Union gets involved and he doesn’t get re-elected, and honestly who wants to keep up with the mundane life of a President after their term is up? Well, no one wants to keep up with this particular president, that’s for sure. In the end, though, being friends with the Soviet Union works in his favor, so I guess that’s a happy ending. The original Broadway cast included Nanette Fabray and Robert Ryan, and Jackie Kennedy saw the show during its run.

John Adams – 1776

1776 is focused on founding father, John Adams. John Adams wanted independence for America from the British rule. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t very much liked, so no one wanted to even consider the idea. That’s when Benjamin Franklin says the idea might be considered if someone else proposed it. They get Richard Henry Lee to propose it and what do you know, the people go for it. Adams does also come up with one other idea and gets to take credit for it himself: It’s his suggestion to make the eagle our national symbol, so there’s that.

Bill Clinton – Hillary and Clinton

What an interesting duo. Americans have watched Hillary and Bill for many decades. There was Bill’s election. His impeachment. Her political career. Her historic presidential run. Love them or hate them, the Clintons are as close to political royalty as it gets here in the USA. Hillary and Clinton studies both Hillary’s Presidential campaign in 2008 primary in New Hampshire, and her union with Bill. The biggest difference of this play compared to so many others was that neither actors impersonate the real-life people. They take on their characters in a more realistic way without the pant suits and silly accents in an alternative universe where Hillary looks to her husband for help on her campaign journey and how that affects their marriage.

George W. Bush – You’re Welcome America

Yes, Will Ferrell has been on Broadway and with his satirical show about George H. W. Bush. During Bush’s Presidency, Ferrell was well-known for his Bush impression on Saturday Night Live, so he decided to take it to the stage. The play was meant to be a farewell from Bush and most likely a farewell from Ferrell’s impression as well. The play actually broke the house record at the Cort Theatre during its second week of the run. It took on some of the hard decisions Bush had to make during his Presidency, but with a lot of humor behind it, and dancing Secret Agents, because why not.

Multiple Presidents – Assassins

Okay, this show doesn’t necessarily star any presidents, but it certainly shows us how many presidents were not liked by everyone. There have been a total of four presidential assassinations in the history of our country with a dozen plus attempts of assassinations. Presidents win by majority, but that doesn’t mean everyone approves. 

Washington, Jefferson, and Adams in Hamilton

Of course we can’t leave out Hamilton. This show revolves around the Founding Fathers of our country and includes a few presidents as well. While most of these characters are that significant in the show, Hamilton obviously has a connection to all of them. Hamilton learns different lessons like, Washington shows him that you don’t have to die to make a difference in your country. Hamilton had to make the decision to choose “the lesser of two evils” as most of us feel the need to do in an election. He doesn’t agree with Jefferson on anything, but he thinks Jefferson at least has beliefs unlike Burr. Hamilton hopefully learned that openly bashing a president isn’t a great idea after the government basically comes after him to blackmail him. Whoops! We quickly learned that his political image is much more important than his marriage.