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Broadway musical cast member gives Pence earful, Trump seeks apology

world Updated: Nov 19, 2016 21:51 IST
Donald Trump

Protesters shout slogans at vice president-elect Mike Pence as he leaves the Richard Rodgers Theatre after a performance of the musical Hamilton in New York on Friday. (AP)

Vice president-elect Mike Pence was repeatedly booed at a performance of the award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton,” whose “alarmed and anxious” cast made an unusual call for Donald Trump’s incoming administration to work on behalf of all Americans.

Trump later complained the cast had been rude to Pence and harassed him during the performance late on Friday. “This should not happen!” Trump tweeted.

The wildly popular hit musical, which won 11 Tony Awards in June, follows young colonial rebels who became America’s founding fathers, celebrating diversity and immigrants’ contribution to the nation. The show’s lead actor, Javier Munoz, is openly gay, HIV-positive and a cancer survivor.

The crowd greeted Pence, a stalwart Christian conservative from the Midwest, with a mix of boos and cheers when he entered the theater before the show.

Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays third US vice president Aaron Burr, read a statement to Pence during the curtain call that echoed some of the main concerns critics have voiced since the Republican firebrand won the election on November 8.

With that, a performance about a revolution and dawn of a young nation became even more political. Thanking Pence for attending the performance, Dixon asked him to “hear us out.”

“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,” Dixon said.

“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.”

Hamilton, Dixon told Pence, was performed by “a diverse group of men, women of different colors, creeds and orientations.” The audience cheered and loudly applauded.

Pence ducked out before Dixon finished the unprecedented message but heard the full remarks from the hallway outside the auditorium.

Pence ducked out before Dixon finished the unprecedented message but heard the full remarks from the hallway outside the auditorium. He made no comment.

Outside, many protesters jeered, including one woman who held up a sign with a line from the musical that always gets a cheer: “Immigrants, we get the job done.” Dixon’s speech, which ended with a plea to donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, brought down the house.

During the performance, the audience gave a standing ovation at the line “immigrants we get the job done”, theatergoer Christy Colburn tweeted. “Crowd went NUTS at King George’s lines ‘when people say they hate you’ & ‘do you know how hard it is to lead?’ He had to stop the song.”

Trump complained in a tweet Saturday morning. “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing,” he wrote. “This should not happen!”

“The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” he added in another tweet. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”

Activists worry the Trump administration will be hostile to gay rights. Trump has deployed polarising rhetoric to describe immigrants, vowing to build a wall along the US border with Mexico and ban Muslims from entering the US.

The bombastic real estate billionaire – who faced widespread condemnation within and outside his Republican party during his campaign when a video emerged of him making lewd boasts about groping and forcing himself on women – has so far appointed staunchly conservative older white men to major posts in his future administration.

Hamilton has been praised by politicians and rap stars alike, influenced the debate over the nation’s currency and burst through the Broadway bubble like none other. The first family has been big boosters of the show. President Barack Obama took daughters Sasha and Malia to see it last year after first lady Michelle Obama caught it last spring. Vice president Joe Biden also has seen it.

The show is by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical’s book, music and lyrics. It stresses the orphan, immigrant roots of Alexander Hamilton and has a varied score, ranging from pop ballads to gospel to sexy R&B. It has been cheered for reclaiming the nation’s founding story by a multicultural cast.

Pence supported numerous efforts to ban gay marriage as governor of Indiana and opposed unfettered federal funding for HIV and AIDS treatment. After Pence left, Jeffrey Seller, the show’s lead producer, said he hopes the politician would share the show’s message of empathy: “I hope that maybe it inspires him to feel for those not like him.”

Seller, a Tony Award winner who has produced such shows as Rent and Avenue Q, said such notable Republicans as former vice president Dick Cheney and presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan have come to Hamilton.

“This show is absolutely for Republicans as well as Democrats, and we would like to host any Republican who would like to see the show,” he said.