In the wake of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton — a hip-hop rock opera about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton — a series of lesser known political dramas has been unearthed. Some are closer to the Triad political scene — others farther from home in Raleigh and Washington, DC. Either way, they’re getting national attention despite their humble roots. Here’s a look at the short list of musicals about North Carolina politics and politicians that never made it to Broadway.
Hair — You know it as the American tribal love-rock hippie fest from the 1960s. Reimagined, it’s the life story of “Breck Girl” former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards — a country boy turned ambulance chaser turned politician who married a saint and sinned like a sinner. Edwards, whose $400 haircuts are as notorious as his blatant affair and love child with one of his employees, belts his follicles into a frenzy with the signature song, “I’m gonna wash this campaign right out of my hair.”
Wicked — Currently on Broadway as the untold story of the Witches of Oz, “Wicked” has been rewritten to represent North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the least likely “friend of Dorothy” ever. More warlock than witchy, the story revolves around the governor’s four years of tyranny and his flying monkey cronies in Raleigh. McCrory’s signature song “The Wizard and I” is a love song to Art Pope.
Les Miserable — Known to the world as French writer Victor Hugo’s tour de force about poverty and political resistance, Les Mis has been reinterpreted as Les Mis and Mister and circulates around the controversial HB2 and civil rights in general in North Carolina at the moment. Set in a field of bedraggled porta-potties, this show is not recommended for children or those with weak stomachs.
Waitress — This Broadway baby might be better known to you as the quirky film of the same name starring Keri Russell. It’s about a hash-slinger in a small Southern town who is faced with tough and touching life choices. The remix of this is also a show about North Carolina’s HB2 bill and involves the difficult choices a waitress must make in enforcing the bill in the restaurant where she works. The show-stopping number is a game of musical chairs where chairs are replaced with bathroom stalls and the gender-bending dancers are bedazzled with urinal cakes.
Cats — Based on a book by TS Eliot and composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber, this 1981 musical was originally about a tribe of felines and transcendency to the other side. Reengineered as Hats, this extravaganza is about cool cat Alma Adams who represents North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District in the US House of Representatives, and all of the hats this powerhouse wears.
Stomp — On Broadway this percussion group uses ordinary objects to make noise and employ a grassroots level of physical theater. In its North Carolina incarnation, it stars Raleigh lawmakers who use citizens and their rights as their pummeling ground. Actual citizens are used as drums. Parental guidance suggested.