In honor of President’s Day, let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable portrayals of two of America’s greatest leaders, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as seen on the Broadway stage. From stirring speeches to moments of vulnerability, these performances have brought history to life in uniquely theatrical ways.
George Washington in Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking 2015 musical “Hamilton” offers a fresh and dynamic portrayal of George Washington, depicted as a mentor and father figure to Alexander Hamilton through the Revolutionary War and his presidency. Christopher Jackson’s commanding presence and powerful vocals make Washington’s leadership palpable, particularly in the songs ‘Right Hand Man’ and ‘One Last Time.’
Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois
This Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Robert E. Sherwood chronicles the life of Abraham Lincoln from his humble beginnings to his presidency. Originally performed in 1938 and later revived in 1994 (with Sam Waterston’s Tony-nominated performance in the title role), it offers a poignant depiction of Lincoln’s journey, capturing his wit, wisdom, and the weight of his decisions during a tumultuous era in American history.
George Washington in 1776
In this Tony Award-winning musical, Washington’s presence looms large, even if he never appears on stage. As the Continental Congress debates independence, Washington’s leadership is felt through references and discussions about his character and actions, as well as in the reading of his dispatches from the battlefield. The musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence has appeared on Broadway twice since its premiere in 1969, most recently in a gender-bent production at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre (now the Todd Haimes Theatre).
Abraham Lincoln in Assassins
Stephen Sondheim’s dark and thought-provoking musical “Assassins” features Lincoln as a central figure, albeit in a more symbolic role. His assassination serves as a focal point for the show, exploring themes of disillusionment and the American dream through the lens of his tragic death.
From the revolutionary fervor of the American Revolution to the tumultuous days of the Civil War, these portrayals of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln remind us of the enduring impact of their leadership and the timeless relevance of their legacies. As we celebrate President’s Day, we continue to explore and honor the rich tapestry of American history, both on stage and off.