The cast of “Hamilton” was not going to throw away its shot.
After Friday evening’s performance, at which Vice President-elect Mike Pence was in the audience, several dozen of the Broadway musical’s cast members zeroed in on Pence during their curtain call. Brandon Victor Dixon - the actor who played Aaron Burr - stepped forth and cut through the applause.
“You know, we have a guest in the audience this evening,” he said to audience laughter. “And Vice President-elect Pence, I see you walking out, but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There’s nothing to boo here, ladies and gentlemen. There’s nothing to boo here. We’re all here sharing a story of love. We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out.”
As he pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, Dixon encouraged people to record and share what he was about to say “because this message needs to be spread far and wide.”
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“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ We really do,” Dixon said to further applause. “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. All of us. Again, we truly thank you truly for (sharing) this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
Pence reportedly left the auditorium before Dixon finished speaking, but a show spokesman told the Associated Press that the vice president-elect stood in the hallway and heard the full message.
“Hamilton,” a musical about the rise of former treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton from his humble beginnings as an orphan and an immigrant, has a famously diverse cast. One of its oft-touted lyrics - “Immigrants, we get the job done” - appeared on a sign just outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Friday night, where dozens had gathered to protest Pence.
Twitter exploded late Friday night with responses that cleaved into two camps: Those who cheered the cast for voicing their concerns so directly and those who found the exchange “rude.” In the latter was President-elect Donald Trump, who tweeted twice Saturday morning about Pence’s musical visit, saying that the cast had “harassed” the vice president-elect with “cameras blazing.”
Though the Broadway cast’s message was directed broadly at what would be an administration under Trump’s presidency, Pence himself has a political track record that has been excoriated by the LGBT community. Last year, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act after the federal courts ruled that same-sex marriage bans in states were unconstitutional. Under the new state law, Indiana business owners could cite their religious beliefs if they didn’t want to participate in same-sex weddings. Opponents said it amounted to allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation. A week later, after facing boycotts and widespread condemnation from rights groups, Pence signed an amendment clarifying that the law could not be used to discriminate against the LGBT community.
He has a “0%” rating from the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit group that calls Pence “notoriously anti-LGBTQ” when he was chosen to be Trump’s running mate. Republican Chrys Kefalas outlined Pence’s anti-LGBT record in a guest column for The Washington Post:
“During his public career, Pence has been an outspoken opponent of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens. In Congress, he opposed efforts to encourage foreign governments to decriminalize homosexuality and sought to block the repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. As a governor, he stood against not only marriage equality, but civil unions as well. He also opposed a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace and signed one opening the door to wide-ranging discrimination against these residents of his own state under the guise of religious liberty.”
None of this was lost on the audience, who greeted Pence’s arrival to his prime orchestra seat with a mix of cheers and boos, according to the AP.
Dixon told Broadway.com after Friday’s performance that the cast was alerted ahead of time that Pence would be in the audience, and that they spoke to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created “Hamilton,” as well as show producer Jeffrey Seller.
“When we first got the call that [Pence] was coming, there was certainly a question of what we would do,” Dixon told the site, which covers Broadway news. “These are the opportunities that you die for.”
Dixon added that he saw Pence enjoying the show and hoped the future vice president would remember the cast.
“I truly believe we had an effect,” Dixon told the site. “ If you have differences, say something! What better place than on this stage telling this story with these people? I hope he thinks of us every time he has to deal with an issue or talk about a bill or present anything.”
“Hamilton” has been an overwhelming hit since it debuted on Broadway last August. The show won 11 Tony Awards in June, including for best musical.