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Obama musical set to open in Germany

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A musical about Barack Obama’s “Yes we can” election campaign premieres in Germany this weekend, including love songs by the president to his wife Michelle and duets with Hillary Clinton.

Even John McCain and Sarah Palin are given stage time, with actors portraying the losing Republican candidates and belting out songs on their behalf.

In all, 30 singers, actors and dancers are to perform in the musical “Hope — the Obama Musical Story” when it opens at the Jahrhunderthalle concert hall in Frankfurt in a bilingual mix of English and German. The audience may recognize that many songs quote from the politicians’ stump speeches during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign.

The venue for the premier seems appropriate since the optimism of Obamania remains largely intact in Germany, about a year after Obama, an accomplished public speaker, became America’s first black president.

On Wednesday, the performers were still working at their kicks on a small rehearsal stage in an industrial zone of the southwestern city of Karlsruhe.

“We are rehearsing every day for 12 hours now,” Jimmie Wilson, who plays Obama, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “After the opening, we have to see what the feedback is like and then we’ll go on tour.”

The American once acted in Michael Jackson musical “Sisterella.”

The organizers of “Hope!” said that tickets are only available for the opening night in Frankfurt and that further performances there and in other German cities were still being planned.

“I had the idea (for the musical) during the presidential campaign. … It was fascinating and the mood at the time fired my imagination,” American writer Randall Hitchins said in a news release provided by the organizers. “All the people were hoping for a change for a better life and there was such a great, collective emotion.”

While Hitchins initially only wanted to compose one song with the title “Yes, we can” — in reference to Obama’s campaign slogan — he soon realized that the theme had the potential for more. He teamed up with producer Roberto Emmanuele, a German-Italian, and together they created the musical, which combines different musical styles, from pop, soul and gospel to hip hop and rock.

Set in Obama’s hometown of Chicago and viewed through the eyes of a group of people who share an apartment, the musical tries to show how Obama’s campaign gave people at the time hope for change and belief in a better future.

“The story starts 20 years ago, when Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and leads all the way to the 2008 campaign,” said Wilson.

Most of the actors are American and many have performed in other German musicals.

As part of an interactive gimmick, the audience will be asked to participate in the show by playing tiny drums built into their chairs.

Tickets for the premier can be bought online and range between euro40 and euro149 ($58 and $215).

On the Net: http://hope-musical.com/english/index_en.htm

© 2010 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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