NEW YORK (AFP) - It’s tough being Hillary Clinton. Her book’s a flop, she’s angered ordinary Americans with crass remarks about money and now her husband’s sex life is a New York musical.
The lofty ideals and sordid scandal of the eight-year Clinton White House have been rolled into a two-hour, two-act musical satire making its US premiere in the Big Apple on July 18.
Looked upon affectionately as one of America’s best presidents despite his human flaws, Clinton treads the boards played by two characters: super-smart statesman William and bed-hopping Bill.
“Sunday morning” Bill dreams of universal health care, welfare reform and transforming the United States for the better but “Saturday night Bill” gets sidetracked by womanising.
Hillary is devastated by his betrayal but props him up and forges her own ambitions while a frisky Monica Lewinsky, Newt Gingrich and prosecutor Kenneth Starr snap at their heels.
Clinton: the Musical will be performed at The New York Music Theatre Festival after showing in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe, where it was nominated for best new musical in 2012.
With US politics transfixed by Hillary “will-she-won’t-she” run for president in 2016, the timing is impeccable – not bad for its 26-year-old writer and composer, an Australian PhD student.
Paul Hodge told AFP he was drawn to the Clintons as a couple and as individuals, and looks back to fondly to the 1990s.
“I think Bill Clinton has enormous strengths and also some flaws and I think that’s what endears him to people,” he said.
“Every musical needs to have a love story and it kind of marks a new dynamic, a love story between the two Bills, but also the relationship with Hillary,” Mr Hodge said.
Based in London, he has been in New York for a couple of weeks, re-writing, tweaking and perfecting the music, the lyrics and the jokes. Of 21 songs, only two remain as they were in Britain.
A huge scar at the time, the Lewinsky scandal has faded into the background as the 9/11 attacks, war, recession and political paralysis have characterised a much darker era in the 2000s.
The Clintons live in New York. Hillary was a New York senator and the city is overwhelmingly Democratic, so the couple are popular in the Big Apple and members of the cast are huge fans.
The production is outrageously funny but also affectionate.
“Ultimately the whole thing is an incredibly funny but loving parody,” says Karl Kenzler who plays sensible Bill.
“All the old jokes are there... but you get to see this wonderfully nuanced portrait of Bill and you also get to see a pretty complex Hillary and another side to Monica,” he told AFP.
Alet Taylor, a.k.a Hillary, said it was a great role and praised Hodge for such a well-written and funny script.
Herself a woman who juggles motherhood and a career while being married to a performer, she said it would be “wonderful” to shake Hillary’s hand and “say ‘go girl’.” But what if the Clintons turned up on opening night?
“Oh my God, I’d be terrified no way!!” laughed Duke Lafoon, who plays party Bill. Although he would love to meet them.
“I hope they just roll their eyes and go ‘oh, those kids’ and not be too serious about it, because we certainly aren’t.” With so many commentators convinced Hillary will run and even become America’s first female president, will there be a sequel?
Taylor says her Hillary is a formidably smart woman who has all the answers and thinks she can do a better job than her husband.
But Hodge is tight-lipped. “It will be answered at the end of the show,” was all he would say.
Clinton: the Musical will be performed at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre from July 18 to July 26. Tickets cost $25.