Jan 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

John McCain lives on in Trump's head in new musical

A red baseball cap with the letters G O J M and the words Ghost of John McCain on the front

An image from the musical "The Ghost of John McCain." Image: Courtesy of Quixote Productions

The late U.S. Sen. John McCain lives on in former President Trump's head in a new musical, and it's not a place Arizona's iconic senator wants to be.

Driving the news: McCain is the subject of "The Ghost of John McCain," which will have an invitation-only reading at Sunlight Studios in New York on Thursday.

  • The musical is produced by Quixote Productions and former McCain campaign aide Max Fose. Quixote Productions was founded by Arizona PR consultant Jason Rose, who also created "¡Americano! The Musical."

Details: In the show, McCain awakes in the afterlife, "horrified" to find he's a prisoner inside Trump's brain, according to a press release about the production.

  • To escape, "McCain must fight for his freedom by engaging in a high-stakes debate over life, legacy, and American values."
  • Trump and his brain are separate characters played by different actors, according to IMDB.
  • The show features a Greek chorus trapped inside Trump's mind that includes: Hillary Clinton, Roy Cohn, Eva Peron, Teddy Roosevelt, Robert Jordan and Lindsey Graham, all of whom "rebel against the President's relentless demands for affirmation."

Zoom in: Rose told Axios Phoenix his original concept was "that John McCain ... tortures [Trump] past, present and future, in a theatrical way."

  • Rose reached out to former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods — a former McCain aide and longtime friend of the senator who was also an aspiring playwright — and conceived the idea of the Greek chorus.
  • After Woods' death in 2021, Rose contacted Fose, who told Axios he wanted to ensure the play was "authentic to John McCain and who he was as a person."

What they're saying: Rose said "we were kind of going in a more of an absurdist, 'Book of Mormon' direction, using a lot of comedy to convey important points."

  • A Trump spokesperson did not respond to Axios' request for comment on the announcement of the musical.

Between the lines: Coincidentally, Trump returned to attacking the late senator last weekend, mocking McCain in a speech in Iowa for the physical disabilities he suffered as a result of his years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

  • Fose said the timing of the announcement about the musical worked out because the gist of the play is "how John McCain is still living in Donald Trump's head."

What's next: Rose said the Thursday reading will help him and Fose determine whether they should move forward with plans to raise a couple million dollars for the production.

  • It doesn't have to premier before the election, "but it could be a particularly hot iron in '24."

Of note: Meghan McCain, the late senator's daughter, told The Messenger she was surprised by the musical's announcement and her family "has not authorized it nor was aware of it."

  • Rose noted to Axios Phoenix that Woods was the original playwright, his widow Marlene Galán-Woods reached out to the former senator's wife Cindy McCain about the project, that Fose is involved and Meghan McCain's husband Ben Domenech emailed the production team on Tuesday to ask if he could attend the reading.
  • Rose said they invited Domenech to attend and hopes Meghan McCain will, too.
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