The cast of the groundbreaking Broadway musical Hamilton performed at the White House Monday for an audience that included President Barack and Michelle Obama as well as lucky schoolchildren who were able to witness this intimate version of the perpetually sold-out, Grammy-winning musical. As the Obamas told the audience in their introductory remarks, the seeds of Hamilton were planted in the White House nearly seven years ago.
"I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time. This day, right here, when we're in the White House with this amazing cast," Michelle Obama said in her opening remarks. "We host a lot of special events here, we do a lot of really cool things, but this, for me personally, is the coolest."
The first lady then shared a story about how when Obama first took office, the first family wanted to open the White House doors to artists who usually wouldn't have an audience with a U.S. president. One of the first events they hosted was dedicated to spoken word, "because no one had ever held a poetry slam in the White House." The event brought together the country's best spoken word talent, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
"So Lin will remember right before the event we do a photo line with all the artists in the Blue Room, so Lin walks up, and Barack and I are, 'It's great to meet you, what are you gonna do tonight?' And he's like, 'I'm gonna do a piece about Alexander Hamilton,'" Michelle Obama said. "Now Barack and I, we're open-minded, we consider ourselves creative people, but we both looked at each other like, 'Uh, okay. This should be interesting.'"
At that spoken word event, Manual performed the musical's opening number "Alexander Hamilton" between portraits of George and Martha Washington. "We were blown away. There were probably shots of us with our mouths open," the first lady continued. "And back then, he told us he was going to do an entire musical about Alexander Hamilton, and we knew that this had the potential to be really, really good based on his performance, but what we didn't know and never could have imagined that it would be a work of genius. True genius."
In Barack Obama's introductory remarks, the president also reminisced about the spoken word event and how Miranda told him he was working on a musical about "the life of somebody who truly embodies hip-hop: Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton." "So we all started laughing, but Lin-Manuel was serious. And who's laughing now," Obama said. "Having said that, this is definitely the room where it happened, right here," a nod to the musical's "The Room Where It Happens."
After the White House performance, Obama and Miranda stepped outside to perform a "Rose Garden Freestyle," with the playwright showing off his impressive improvisation skills using words like "Supreme Court," "NASA" and "Obamacare." "You think that's going viral? That's going viral," the president said of Miranda's skills.