Vice President-elect Mike Pence has spent the last week and a half in New York City, helping guide Donald Trump’s transition to the White House. On Friday night, he decided to do what millions of out-of-towners have done while visiting the city. He took in a Broadway show.
It turned into an eventful evening at the theater.
Pence went to see “Hamilton,” the Broadway phenomenon about America’s Founding Fathers featuring a diverse cast that has won Tonys, Grammys, Pulitzers and MacArthur genius grants. After acquiring one of the hottest tickets in town, Pence was being seated in the orchestra section when the crowd began to loudly boo the Indiana governor.
Here's Pence getting booed as he gets to his seats at Hamilton pic.twitter.com/IRQG68x1sB
— David K (@dkipke12) November 19, 2016
At the conclusion of the performance, Pence was exiting the theater when actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who portrays former Vice President Aaron Burr, delivered a statement to the vice president-elect.
— Hamilton (@HamiltonMusical) November 19, 2016
“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,” Dixon said.
“Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at “Hamilton: An American Musical” — we really do. 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 that 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 for sharing in this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientations.”
The New York Times reported that while Pence had already left his seat, Dixon said that Pence stood in the hallway outside the orchestra section and heard their message, which was written by creator Lin-Manuel Miranda along with the director, producer and cast members after they heard that Pence was attending.
“The cast, the creators, we all felt that we must express our feelings to Vice President-elect Pence,” producer Jeffrey Seller told the Hollywood Reporter. “This is not a normal time, this is not a normal election. This has not been a normal result. And in a democracy, one must let his and her voice be heard, and we were not going to [do] the show tonight without expressing how we feel,” said Seller. “Everybody should be able to see this show, regardless of their politics, but it does just so happen that the politics of this administration have been so negative toward minorities, people of color, gay people that we felt the need to speak up. As a cast comprised of minorities, women, gay people, it was necessary. We had to speak. We had to express how we feel.”
During the show, theatergoers reported that certain verses elicited raucous responses from the crowd. A popular line in the musical — “Immigrants, we get the job done” — sung by the characters of Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette drew a prolonged ovation. When the character of King George, reacting to the end of the Revolutionary War, offers the warning of “When your people say they hate you, don’t come crawling back to me” to the newly freed colonists, the orchestra had to stop the song because the cheering went on for so long.
The reaction at a Broadway show is not surprising considering Pence’s stance on LGBT issues. As governor of Indiana, he signed into law a religious freedom act that was seen to allow discrimination against the LGBT community and that he was later forced to roll back. He was also slow to act on a needle-exchange program that would have helped to stop an HIV crisis from spiraling out of the opioid epidemic in parts of the Hoosier State. The actor who plays Hamilton, Javier Muñoz, is openly gay and HIV positive.
As a congressman, Pence’s campaign website stated that his positions were to “oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage,” not allow homosexuals to fall under antidiscrimination protection laws, and for funds to be diverted to conversion therapy to “provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
“Hamilton” hosted several Democratic fundraisers over the course of the presidential campaign but has been attended by politicians across the political spectrum, from President Obama to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Not everyone approved of the response from the crowd, which on a Friday night was almost certainly a mix of tourists and New York residents. Two New York Times reporters and MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough were critical of those in attendance.
Pence getting booed at Hamilton bums me out. Whatever you think of him. He’s trying to engage. Could get ideas from far worse places. https://t.co/gn7j25Nuy7
— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 19, 2016
He's also the VP-elect. A level of disrespect https://t.co/Xgfbb0EpBH
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 19, 2016