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Judging by the crowd of screaming, sign-carrying protesters gathered outside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in Manhattan on Thursday night, you would think a political rally was going on inside, and not the Broadway debut of actress Katie Holmes.

Wearing masks and holding signs with salacious slogans like "Free Katie!", "Scientology is a cult!", "Run Katie Run!" and "Free Katie! Keep Tom," many protestors shouted their distaste with the religion of choice for the former Dawson’s Creek star and her hubby, Tom Cruise.

"We’re not protesting the play, we’re not protesting her," explained one protestor who goes by the name of Little Sister. "We’re just showing her support pretty much. We’re showing her that she can have the strength to leave… We’ve seen Katie in recent televison and she looks miserable. She’s lost a lot of weight. We’ve seen her with purple hands."

According to the anti-Scientology crowd, they are are worried about Katie and her two-year-old daughter Suri. They also alleged to OK! that the Church of Scientologists had been attempting to stop the protest.

At one point, a fight nearly erupted outside the theater and police were forced to step in to calm things down.

However, despite rampant rumors that protestors would interrupt the actual performance, the audience inside the theater — including Oscar-winner Dustin Hoffman in the fourth row — was well-behaved as Katie made her way through her first live performance of the Arthur Miller play All My Sons.

In fact, the audience cheered as Tom entered the theater and took his seat near the front of the house. He even took the time to share a brief embrace with Dustin, who later stayed behind to offer his congratulations to Katie.

As for her actual performance, one audience member tells OK! that Katie was "actually pretty good. She has her hands on her hips a lot like she’s posing for pictures and she projects her voice a bit too much, but she’s a good actress."

Regardless of any minor shortcomings, when the final curtain closed, the audience applauded, giving Katie and her co-stars a standing ovation.

"Tom had a huge smile on his face after the show," says one witness, who spotted the superstar actor heading backstage to congratulate his wife.

Outside, the pre-show crowd had swelled to more than 150 screaming fans and dozens of photographers as a half-dozen police officers on horseback patroled the crowd who now carried signs pronouncing, "Well Done Katie!"

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