“I nudged my kids and reminded them that’s what freedom sounds like,” Pence said.
Knowing Pence was in the audience, the cast of “Hamilton” did not throw away its shot.
After the show, several dozen of the musical’s cast members zeroed in on Pence during their curtain call. Brandon Victor Dixon — the actor who plays 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.”
“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 seeing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations.”
Pence reportedly was leaving the auditorium before Dixon finished speaking, but told Wallace that he heard the full message.
“I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you, I wasn’t offended by what was said,” Pence said. “I’ll leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.”
He added that he wanted to address the cast’s message.
“I know this is a very disappointing time for people that did not see their candidate win in this national election. I know this is a very anxious time for some people,” Pence said. “And I just want to reassure people that what President-elect Donald Trump said on election night, he absolutely meant from the bottom of his heart. He is preparing to be the president of all of the people of the United States of America.”
Pence’s comments — in their tone and substance — were sharply different from those of Donald Trump on the incident.
The “Hamilton” cast’s unusual address quickly went viral and 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 Trump, who said that the cast members had “harassed” Pence with “cameras blazing” and demanded they apologize.
“The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” Trump tweeted as a follow-up. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
Trump would continue to tweet about the “Hamilton” into the next day, insisting at 6:22 a.m. Sunday that the cast and producers of the show, “which I hear is highly overrated,” should apologize to Pence.
Trump tweeted Saturday that he only settled because he “did not have the time to go through a long but winning trial on Trump U. Too bad!”
By Saturday, both #NameAPenceMusical and #BoycottHamilton were trending on Twitter. Dixon, the actor who read the message at “Hamilton,” responded to Trump on Twitter, saying that conversation did not amount to harassment and that he appreciated that Pence stopped to listen.
The barrage of “Hamilton”-related tweets was, well, nonstop. For every person who threatened a boycott of the musical, there was another who cheekily mocked it — or even encouraged a boycott, if it would mean a greater chance of getting tickets. “You know what? I support #BoycottHamilton,” comedian Patton Oswalt tweeted. “I hope it intensifies — especially during the first week of March, maybe that Sunday matinee?”
Although 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.
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.
Sam Rudy, the show’s publicist, later said the speech was composed collectively by Dixon, Miranda, Seller and director Thomas Kail “with input from members of the company.” The text was completed minutes before the end of the performance, Rudy said.
“When we first got the call that [Pence] was coming, there was certainly a question of what we would do,” Dixon told Broadway.com, 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” the musical was inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s biography, and Miranda also uses Hamilton’s life to relay the complicated, fraught story of the American Revolution. The musical is, among many things, about the difficulty of independent governance and about the Founding Fathers’ struggle to establish a democracy, despite their human flaws and differences. It is all told through a mix of hip-hop, R&B, rap and pop songs.
Since its Broadway debut, “Hamilton” has attracted numerous celebrities and politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Hillary Clinton, Ivanka Trump and Richard B. Cheney. (Lynne Cheney, who is a historian, told the New York Times that she and her husband loved the show: “The music was terrific. … It’s a play about human beings who achieved greatly.”)
In the past year, however, the musical has become increasingly politicized. The Obamas have been vocal and unabashed fans of the musical, as well as Miranda’s body of work. In October, Miranda and actress Renée Elise Goldsberry rewrote the lyrics to “Ten Duel Commandments” and performed the rap in support of Clinton at a fundraiser for the Democratic presidential nominee.
Still, Pence told Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that he could be counted among the musical’s new fans.
“‘Hamilton’ is just an incredible production, incredibly talented people. And it was a real joy to be there,” Pence said. “… Chris, if you haven’t seen the show, go to see it. It is a great, great show.”
Peter Marks contributed to this report. This story, originally published Nov. 19, has been updated.