US President Barack Obama – stage version – thrilled a Frankfurt audience Sunday with song in a musical that opened far from the trenches of Washington politics in a land still charmed by his message of hope and change.
I m fascinated by Obama, spectator Cornelia Hirschfeld, 55, told AFP half-way through Hope – The Obama Musical Story.
Obama underscored his trademark theme with a chorus of Yes We Can and sang a lover s duet with his wife Michelle in a show producers hope to take one day to the United States.
I m so proud to represent President Barack Obama, proud to be an American, lead actor Jimmie Wilson said afterwards. It s an honor, I can t say much more than that.
Wilson told AFP the qualities he admired most in Obama were his eloquence, strength and vision, adding that it was amazing how he moved a world .
Actors playing Obama s Republican opponents John McCain and Sarah Palin did numbers of their own, the latter singing Ich bin ein Pitbull (I m a Pitbull) in a musical that was uneven but which gained steam in the second act.
Set in Chicago, where Obama worked as a community organizer, the plot portrays how his message helps reconcile residents of a multi-cultural neighborhood and propels a young black politician to the White House in 2008.
We showed a lot of social movement and this is what the musical is about, that we have to keep a positive spirit about the world, said Roberto Emmanuele, the German-Italian producer and director.
As for whether the White House had heard about this show, Emmanuele said: I think so but I haven t had a message yet from them. I think I will get one after today, I hope so.
Author and composer Randall Hutchins insisted the show was not politically motivated but acknowledged Obama s campaign inspired me to get back into the (electoral) process.
When asked if he was surprised by the audience s enthusiastic reception, Hutchins said: Yeah! Not that I thought it was bad music, but you never know how people are going to react to do something you do from your heart.
Obama s US approval ratings have fallen since he took office a year ago, but he is popular in Germany where 44 percent saw him as their political role model in a November poll, almost twice the number of the closest German politician.
The rising US political candidate drew 200,000 people to a Berlin event in July 2008, and Wilson, who has performed all over Germany in other shows, says they re big fans of President Obama.
In a US Quinnipiac University poll released last week, voters were split 45-45 on whether Obama s first year was a success or failure, compared with 70 percent approval just after his inauguration.
In Frankfurt, the show drew a relatively young crowd which clapped, drummed on specially designed seats and gave performers a standing ovation at the end, preferring the powerful gospel-based numbers most of all.
Plans are being laid to take it to other cities around Germany.
The one-off performance would benefit from a longer run so actors could get deeper into their roles, but one spectator, Roswitha Bauer, said it had done a pretty good job of presenting Obama s story.
Spectator Hirschfeld brought her 21-year-old son David, who will recommend any future shows to friends for the music and the dance but thought an early scene where women go to a spa to relieve the tension of daily life was pretty confusing.
Having visited the United States, he said: What s up with that? I don t think they go to the spa that often.
Two other shows have already put the US president on stage meanwhile, Obama On My Mind in London, and Obama: The Musical in Nairobi.