The Walter Kerr Theatre, home to “Springsteen on Broadway” on Thursday evening erupted in thunderous applause minutes before curtain time when all eyes looked stage left.
Many thought it was the Boss ambling onto the stage. Without tens of thousands of fans, strobe lights, super-mega jumbotrons and his band of aged rockers, Springsteen looked shorter and balder, and sounded more vulnerable as he recalled experiences from his early life and bared his soul like the open book that inspired the sold-out Tony award-winning show, which is closing in December.
After another wave of frenzied clapping it became clear that the commotion was directed toward a private box. There were Chappaqua, N.Y., denizens, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Bill stood tall, wearing a suit and wide smile, waving Queen Elizabeth-style with his arm raised perfectly straight and no movement in his hand and wrist. Hillary gave a hearty hello and smiled broadly before taking a seat next to her husband.
It was no surprise that the Clintons were there. Springsteen was an ardent supporter of Hillary participated in a last-ditch effort, performing his classics at a Nov. 7 rally that also featured Bon Jovi, among others.
Springsteen from the stark theater stage spoke about the shooting in February at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, before singing “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” the name taken from John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath.”
His message couldn’t be mistaken and was directed at President Trump. “Men in the highest places…they don’t hesitate to call out our darkest ghosts. I thought they were buried in the ash heap of American history.
“Now this is deadly foolishness,” Springsteen continued.
The rock icon referred to the Parkland students, saying the tragic event woke up a country that had become inured to needless gun violence, calling their activism “a necessity” adding, “Welcome to the new world order.
“I wanted to be a critical voice. I took my fun seriously,” Springsteen said, referring to his body of work, which has commented on the social issues of the day in moving and powerful ways. Examples include “Philadelphia” about the AIDS epidemic and “The Rising” about Sept. 11.
Pipe bombs mailed to five high-profile Democrats, CNN and a liberal billionaire two days earlier put “Springsteen on Broadway” on high alert. Ticket-holders were required to submit to multiple security checks with hand-held electromagnetic wands and a bomb-sniffing dog sat pert with pricked-up ears. Hillary Clinton was one of the Democrats. Secret Service staffers during a routine mail check intercepted the pipe bomb, which was found in a bubble wrap-lined envelope addressed to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
After the show, as the Clintons exited the theater and walked to their black Suburban, theater patrons and paparazzi called out to the couple, “Are you okay?” “Were you scared to come here tonight?” The former president said they were fine and waved as his wife, smiling, entered was helped by a Secret Service agent into the car.