'Hamilton' Pence controversy helps Broadway show break new record

'Hamilton' Pence controversy helps Broadway show break new record
Source: AP
Source: AP

Hamilton, the popular Broadway musical about Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, has broken yet another record — this time, for the highest amount of money earned by a Broadway show in one week. 

The Tony-winning hip-hop musical, which features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, grossed $3.3 million the week of Thanksgiving, establishing itself as the first Broadway show ever to top $3 million in an eight-performance week. Wicked, the musical adaptation of Gregory Maguire's book of the same name, grossed $3.2 million during a nine-performance week in 2013. 

The box office bump comes following a highly publicized encounter between the cast and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who saw the musical with his family on Nov. 18. Audience members at the Richard Rodgers Theatre booed Pence as he took his seat, and cast member Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays Aaron Burr, addressed Pence from the stage following the curtain call. Dixon's speech thanked Pence for attending and noted the cast's diversity while stressing the hope that the Trump administration will work on behalf of all of them. 

While Pence has stated he was not offended by the cast's actions, President-elect Donald Trump commented on their actions on Twitter, claiming Pence was "harassed," and demanded an apology from the cast. He continued the next day, tweeting, "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."

Pence's visit to the Richard Rodgers Theatre was especially noteworthy given his political record regarding racial minorities and homosexuals. The cast of Hamilton, whose star Javier Muñoz is Latino and homosexual, has been noted for its racial diversity, with people of color playing George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The cast is also notable for its political activism, registering people to vote in front of the theater and releasing digital videos encouraging people to vote in the election. 

With its Tony, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning status, as well as the invitation to perform at the White House, Hamilton already possessed a high-profile platform in national news. The story of Pence's visit and the cast's speech quickly spread, inspiring a #BoycottHamilton trend on social media. The impact of such an action would be difficult to gauge, given that the musical is sold out for months into the future, and the most recent box office reports show the exact opposite effect.  

While the Pence controversy appeared to have in fact helped the musical, this is hardly the first record broken by Hamilton. The show has earned 16 Tony Award nominations — the most ever bestowed upon a single show — and has an average paid admission of $303, which is the highest on Broadway. Premium tickets to the musical go for $998, far surpassing the previously held record for a premium price of $700, which was set by Barry Manilow on Broadway. The cast recording, which was featured in a live performance at the Grammy Awards, is the highest-debuting recording in more than 50 years, and, at number three, is the highest-charting Broadway cast recording on the Billboard Rap charts. 

The cast of Hamilton has been outspoken in their support for Hillary Clinton, performing at fundraisers for the Democratic presidential candidate, and numerous political figures have taken in the musical, including President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, as well as former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Check out the top-grossing Broadway shows from the week ending Nov. 27: 

1) Hamilton, $3,260,089

2) The Lion King, $2,496,332

3) Wicked, $2,286,976

4) Aladdin, $2,047,065

5) School of Rock, $1,590,032

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Carey Purcell

Carey is an arts writer based in New York who focuses on diversity and gender parity in her work. She has been published in Vice, Playbill, Politico, The Nation, The Village Voice, Salon, Elle and Glamour, among others. She can be reached at Carey@mic.com. Twitter: @CareyPurcell

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