Maine State Music Theatre ‘Annie.’ (Photo: Annie Rose)
Happy Presidents’ Day! Each year, we get a three-day weekend that commemorates the third Monday in February by celebrating…well, it depends on where you live. Each state has its own way of describing this particular day, but the most all-encompassing term is Presidents’ Day. (Some will name the day after George Washington or Abraham Lincoln as both were both born in late February). The holidays, an official federal one since 1879, may be politically-minded, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate many a POTUS who has been seen on stage in various musicals. Here, we examine just some of the presidents who have been fictionalized for the stage.
1. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison in Hamilton
It’s hard to think of a more popular musical about history than Hamilton. Though the title character was never a president (Alexander Hamilton was, of course, a Founding Father and the first Secretary of the Treasury), Lin Manuel-Miranda’s blockbuster musical features numerous former presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. Men of enormous dreams, they didn’t throw away their shot!
2. FDR in Annie
Little orphan Annie gets a “New Deal for Christmas”! That song ends the musical Annie, in which Great Depression-era President Franklin D. Roosevelt is a friend of the wealthy Mr. Warbucks, helping him search for Annie’s long-lost parents. Per the musical, FDR meets Annie, is inspired by her optimism and channels that hope into a New Deal to mend the country’s broken economy.
3. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson in 1776
“John, John, is that you carrying on?” So asks First Lady Abigail Adams in the song “Till Then,” in which she and John profess their love for each other even as tensions mount around the Second Continental Congress. The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, is also a lead role in this musical that features other founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, and others.
4. Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
“Populism, yeah, yeah!” One of America’s most notorious presidents becomes an emo rock sensation in the late Michael Friedman’s energetic musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Also featuring presidents James Monroe and John Quincy Adams, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson redefines Jackson’s legacy as our seventh president, focusing on the Indian Removal Act, his relationship with his wife Rachel, and more.
5. Gerald Ford and James Garfield in Assassins
Never afraid to tackle dark topics, Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins (co-written with John Weidman) took a sharp look at America’s most infamous murderers (or those who attempted and failed to be ones). Though many presidents are mentioned in the musical (Lincoln and Richard Nixon among them), two make appearances: Gerald Ford (whose life is spared) and James Garfield (who was shot four months into his presidency and died two months later).