Cherry Jones once played the role on TV, and now Benjamin Walker is doing the same 8 times a week on Broadway. Yes, both critically-acclaimed actors have played the President of the United States. Of course, neither was the first, and I am sure neither will be the last on TV or Broadway.
As Mr. Walker continues to be all sexypants in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson I got to thinking about other shows devoted to the man in the oval office. What I found was pretty interesting, actually. Seems that nearly all of our 44 presidents have appeared as characters in Broadway plays and musicals.
It might be easier to tell you which men have NOT been portrayed in a Broadway show - there are only 7 - and even two of them have potential special circumstances. The 8 are: Benjamin Harrison, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Hoover doesn't appear, but his "handiwork" does in Annie, where they sing, "We'd Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover." Of course, F.D.R. makes an appearance in that show. The other exception might be that while Benjamin Harrison himself is not a character, his wife was, and she was played by none other than The First Lady of the American Theatre, Helen Hayes.
Which brings me to one of the most interesting Broadway-related presidential facts. Ms. Hayes appeared in a play called The White House, a 23 performance play about the inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Among the cast (all of whom played 5 or more characters was: James Daly, Helen Hayes, Fritz Weaver, and Gene Wilder. The Henry Miller's Theatre has never been so powerful! 23 performances, featuring 23 presidents!
The most recent president to receive Broadway treatment was George W. Bush, played by Will Ferrell in You're Welcome, America. A Final Night with George W. Bush, which played a brief run in 2009.
Another play, Wilson in the Promise Land, played the ANTA Theatre for 7 performances, and featured 6 of our leaders.
In all, there are 14 plays or musicals that feature the White House as a setting listed in the Internet Broadway Data Base, including 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. President, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and Teddy and Alice. While it is too early to tell about BBAJ, the others I listed, along with the few above were fast flops. But there have been successes, too. Frost/Nixon and Sunrise at Campobello did well enough.
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