U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Elkhart, Indiana, on May 10, 2018.
Joshua Lott—Bloomberg/Getty Images
By Abby Vesoulis
August 9, 2018

It took Alexander Hamilton 200 years to hit it big on Broadway. But Donald Trump is already making a splash in a new musical.

Based on the 1993 movie, “Dave” is about an average American who ends up posing as the commander-in-chief, where he’s forced to learn about the presidency on the job.

Though the plot doesn’t stray too far from the movie, the production’s lyricist and co-writer, Nell Benjamin, admits that some key moments were inspired by more recent events, such as Trump’s promise to investigate F-35 fighter jet costs, as well as the way he talks.

Other subtle references to Trump got a reaction from the crowd at a preview for the press on July 27, in Washington, where the show runs through Aug. 19. One scene that drew the biggest reaction involved the scheming chief of staff, who says that he might run for president because “a lot of people are saying” he should.

“It’s interesting what Washington wants to get excited about,” Benjamin said, laughing.

Benjamin said the chief of staff character “kind of moves through the history of the Republican Party” throughout the show, going from representing Reaganesque values to favoring “preemptive striking” and adopting Trumpian language. He “ends up pointing the way towards the camp that the Republican Party is in today,” Benjamin said.

But Benjamin said the show, which features 16 musical numbers and spans over two and a half hours, wasn’t intended to be critical of Trump. In fact, producing “Dave” took more than four years — beginning even before Trump announced his presidential candidacy — and references previous presidents and vice presidents, including Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney.

“I would say that a lot of people working on our show — as is often the case in theater — may be further to the left, but our goal was not to be there,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin said her hope is that a lot of people will want to see the musical “in the same way that a lot of people with different political persuasions want to see ‘Hamilton.'”

Though Benjamin said she has been pleased with crowd feedback so far, she noted a recurring theme in viewers’ reactions.

“What has sort of surprised us over and over again is that we didn’t write it with this particular administration in mind, but some of the audiences have responded to it as if we did,” she said.

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