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From Michelle Obama to Hillary Clinton, all the times famous first ladies saw Broadway shows

February 17, 2022 by Gillian Russo
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Happy Presidents Day! While we’re all enjoying the day off in honor of our Founding Fathers, we are celebrating another group of leaders: first ladies! They’ve taken up different causes and campaigns during their time in the White House, but many have one cause in common: supporting the arts. Not just with words, but by example, as frequent audience members at Broadway shows!

They have been attending the theatre for decades. It’s fitting that modern first ladies have attended American historical musicals like Hamilton, but first ladies have seen all types of shows to get a break from the political hustle and bustle. A couple have even appeared in Broadway shows themselves!

Here are some stories of first ladies who have gone to Broadway shows through the years. Pay attention next time you’re at a Broadway musical or play — you never know who you might see!

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Jill Biden at Six

She’s one of a kind, no category! Current First Lady Jill Biden got down with the Queens on February 15, when she saw Six on Broadway. We don’t have a photo, so instead, here’s one from Michelle Obama’s Instagram of the two first ladies singing on stage. All we’re saying is that if the Queens ever need some extra understudies, put some sparkly outfits on these leaders and they’d fit right in.

Six wasn’t Biden’s first Broadway outing, however — she and President Joe Biden attended the 2017 Tony Awards, where she introduced the performance from the musical Bandstand. Who knows what show we’ll spot her at next?

Michelle Obama at Six, Kinky Boots, The King & I

It only makes sense that certified queen Michelle Obama has seen Six, too. She went with friends in November 2021, which sounds like the best girls night ever. Six years earlier, she and the family had a whirlwind NYC trip filled with theatregoing: she saw Kinky Boots and The King & I on back-to-back nights, and her daughters (along with Former President Barack Obama) went to Hamilton shortly thereafter.

If there was still any doubt that she’s a Broadway fan, in 2016, she hosted an event called Broadway Shines a Light on Girls’ Global Education with the casts of Wicked, The Color Purple, Waitress and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Big Catherine Parr vibes, if you ask us.

Nancy Reagan at The Phantom of the Opera

Nancy Reagan at The Phantom of the Opera

Nancy Reagan was a Phantom phan before it was cool. The former first lady heard the music of the night live on March 23, 1988, just a few months after opening on Broadway. She’s pictured above with original cast members Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford in the foreground. As a former film actress, she’s certainly a theatre fan. Not to mention that she even appeared on Broadway once herself, as a lady-in-waiting in a 1946 musical called Lute Song, alongside Mary Martin and Yul Brynner.

Barbara Bush
Photo credit: Aubrey Reuben

Barbara Bush at Contact

The former first lady made her way to Broadway in 2001, when she saw Contact at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. The dance play had just won Best Musical along with three other awards the year prior. She’s pictured here with Contact cast members Deborah Yates and Boyd Gaines. On the right is her daughter, Dorothy Bush Koch, who accompanied her mother to the show.

Laura Bush at Hamilton
Photo credit: Kate Raudenbush

Laura Bush at Wicked and Hamilton

Broadway is a family affair for the Bush family. In 2004, just a few years after Barbara Bush made contact with the Broadway scene, her daughter-in-law and then-First Lady Laura Bush took her daughters Barbara and Jenna on a trip to Emerald City for Wicked. The ladies took another family Broadway trip to Hamilton in 2015, where the Bush sisters (and mother, of course) met the Schuyler sisters. Work!

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson at Lorelei

Hello, Lady! Lady Bird Johnson, first lady to Lyndon B. Johnson, didn’t see Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, but she did see a different Carol Channing musical, Lorelei, in 1974. Johnson is evidence that the tradition of first ladies at Broadway shows as been around a long time! There is a photo of Johnson and Channing meeting backstage out there, but this photo probably captures the same facial expression that Johnson must have had while seeing the Channing’s excellence live.

Hillary Clinton at every Broadway show from 2016 to 2020

Okay, we’re exaggerating. But not much — Hillary sightings are almost commonplace on Broadway nowadays. According to The New York Times, between the 2016 election and the 2020 election, she saw 39 Broadway shows! She’s a Hamilton superfan, having gone more than once, and has been spotted at Come From Away, Tina, and Hadestown, to name just a few. (She never saw Hillary and Clinton, though.) It all makes sense when you know that she performed in a few high school shows — the theatre kid to lifelong Broadway fan pipeline includes first ladies, too! They’re just like us.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt in The Prom

This one’s a bit different than the others, as The Prom opened on Broadway more than 50 years after Eleanor Roosevelt’s death. But she was there in spirit during the show each night: The opening number sees fictional Broadway actors Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman celebrate opening night of their new Hamilton-esque Eleanor Roosevelt bio-musical. The self-absorbed Dee Dee hilariously sings, “Each time I’ve found a role like Eleanor, the artist inside of me thrives / I put on my wig and those prosthetic teeth, and know I’m changing lives!” The Eleanor musical does not replicate Hamilton‘s success and closes that same day, but The Prom enjoyed more than a year on Broadway and is now touring across the U.S., with the spirit of Roosevelt in tow. Figuratively.