NEW YORK • A surprising confrontation has erupted between President-elect Donald Trump and the cast and creators of the Broadway hit Hamilton, setting off furious debate over American principles like free speech, respect and the ability to challenge authority in the Trump era.
The racially diverse cast made a politically charged appeal from the stage on Friday night to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience. They urged him and Mr Trump to "uphold our American values" and "work on behalf of all of us". Mr Pence, who was on his way out of the theatre, reportedly stopped to listen before stepping onto the sidewalk smiling.
But Mr Trump demanded an apology from the cast on Saturday, significantly escalating the issue on social media and cable news.
He said on Twitter that the actors had "harassed" the "wonderful future VP Mike Pence". He continued to assail the show on Twitter on Saturday night, writing that the actors had been "very rude and insulting" to Mr Pence and claiming that they "couldn't even memorise lines" - though he offered no evidence and then deleted the message.
Yesterday, he again demanded an apology: "The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologise to Mike Pence for their terrible behaviour."
The clash between the Hamilton actors and Mr Trump captured the sharply divergent feelings of many Americans after the election. It also jolted many Americans who are worried about the President-elect's tolerance for dissent.
Actor Brandon Victor Dixon, who read the cast's statement, replied to Mr Trump with a Twitter post of his own, saying: "Conversation is not harassment sir. And I appreciate @mike-pence for stopping to listen."
On Fox News yesterday, Mr Pence said of the incident, "I wasn't offended", declining to ask for an apology as Mr Trump had demanded. Mr Pence acknowledged that many Americans were disappointed and anxious after Mr Trump's election victory, but assured that Mr Trump would be a president "for all Americans".
But others viewed the statement - and the booing of Mr Pence by some theatregoers before the performance - as out of line. One supporter of Mr Trump wrote on Twitter that the Hamilton statement was "a staged hit job". Another wrote that actors should never "humiliate a member of the audience".
Hamilton, itself a deeply political show about the United States as a nation of immigrants - with black or Hispanic actors playing George Washington and other founding fathers - has been celebrated by many Democrat politicians, as well as Republicans.