NEW YORK (AP) — How do you follow winning Olympic gold at the Rio Olympics? How about a chance to see "Hamilton" on Broadway?
The Tony Award-winning smash musical on Tuesday night welcomed the U.S. women's gymnastics team — Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez — who gave the show a standing ovation and greeted the cast onstage afterward at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
The gymnasts, dressed in slacks and button-downs or rompers, sat together in Row G to take in Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-flavored biography about the first U.S. treasury secretary, a night that had athletic gold meeting theatrical gold.
"I thought you were amazing," Raisman told Tony Award-nominee Brandon Victor Dixon, who just happened to be making his debut appearance replacing Tony Award-winner Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr.
"Gymnastics is my favorite Olympic sport, hands-down. Since the days of Kim Zmeskal, I've been about the U.S. gymnastics team. So, I love these ladies. I'm so proud of them. I worship them. I think they're amazing and I got so hyped when I heard they were in the audience tonight," Dixon said.
The U.S. women's team won gold while also winning its second straight Olympic title and third overall. The team won a total of nine medals, including a record-tying four gold medals for Biles.
The women had to rush through Times Square — at one point virtually sprinting through the crowds — to get to the theater in time after taping "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Plaza.
Rhonda Faehn, senior vice president of USA Gymnastics' women's program, said adding "Hamilton" to their busy post-Olympic schedule was an "opportunity of a lifetime." While they were in Rio, Biles' coach would blast the "Hamilton" cast album for the athletes. "It was just meant to be," Faehn said.
The cast and crew took turns taking photos with the athletes after the show and Renée Elise Goldsberry, who plays Angelica Schuyler, brought her young daughter to meet the so-called Final Five. Goldsberry and her fellow Schuyler sisters — Lexi Lawson and Jasmine Cephas Jones — then posed for a photo with the five athletes, their hands in the air as they riffed off a lyric in the show by shouting "Work!"
The show has been celebrated for putting African-American, Asian and Latinos at the center of America's birth and the U.S. Olympic team is a mix of races and ethnicities — black, white, Latina, Jewish.
"They're just like tiny versions of us," said Okieriete Onaodowan, who plays both Hercules Mulligan and James Madison. "It's amazing but it's also remarkable what they're doing, just to be able to perform and not choke under that pressure. At a young age, to be able to perform that way and keep your cool? I'm totally impressed."
The night before, the Broadway cast welcomed U.S. swimmer Maya DiRado, who won two golds, a silver and bronze at Rio. She brought both of her gold medals to the show to share with the cast. She and the Final Five join a long list of celebrities at "Hamilton" including Beyonce, Kanye West, Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Eli Manning, Dave Matthews and Andre 3000.
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits