Broadway stars spill on POTUS and FLOTUS's backstage visit
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama took the night off Friday to hit up the Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun. And the show, starring Denzel Washington, earned rave reviews from POTUS and FLOTUS.
“They loved it,” actress LaTanya Richardson told PEOPLE after the show. “I don’t want to say they’re coming back, but [Michelle] is trying to come back with her mom. And she goes to a lot of shows with the girls.”
During intermission, the first couple made their way backstage – with Secret Service, natch – to meet and take pictures with the cast.
“I was so excited I couldn’t even hear anything he said,” Sophie Okonedo told reporters, adding that Michelle told the cast, “I loved the show.”
A fan of the first lady, Okonedo tells PEOPLE she even got a quick embrace in: “I hugged her! I just couldn’t help it. She just feels so approachable.”
Sitting in the audience in front of the president was director Kenny Leon, who chatted with the president throughout the night.
“He and Michelle hugged me and told me they were just proud of me and proud of the work,” Leon (who flew back from vacation in Atlanta when he heard about the show’s special guests) told PEOPLE. “That’s a very special night. It was just a heightened energy throughout the building.”
Knowing they had such high-profile audience members laid on the nerves. Plus, heightened security (including metal detectors inside the entrance and Secret Service members guarding the exits) delayed the show’s 8 p.m. start time by nearly half an hour.
“When you have to not start at the time that you’re supposed to start, it’s nerve-racking,” Richardson told reporters. “Then when you get all the noise in your Zen position, we were ready to focus.”
Okonedo added it was hard to return to the stage after meeting their famous political guests over intermission. “That was quite difficult to focus,” she told PEOPLE. “We also really know what we’re doing, so eventually your body and mouth just take over, so you feel like your head’s somewhere else. You can just get back into the zone.”
At curtain call, Washington pointed (and tipped his hat) to the first couple, who were actually supposed to leave but stayed for the standing ovation.
“It’s really wonderful that they decided to be a part of this,” Rose said. “They were excited for a date night. It was a really great night.”