“Hamilton” Redeems July Fourth in the Time of COVID-19

Probably I should drop the “…in the time of” business, because it’s all COVID time – our reality in perpetuity. Only the degree of infection changes – and it roars again now.

And didn’t the celebration of the nation’s birthday seem like a party that wasn’t, like an ill-behaved child’s birthday party cancelled, or maybe this is also apt, the child got sick? At least that was my Fourth of July. Only the president seemed to spend it in his alternate universe where a lethal virus and heartfelt protests don’t coexist, where he is threatened by all of us wearing masks and wanting fairness and health – frenzied hoards in his selfish, petty mind.

Gloomy weather and gloomy spirits on Saturday – until the evening, when we joined Disney, and, with millions of Americans watched the unparalleled, “Hamilton,” on television. What a gift from the creator, Lin Manuel Miranda. Oh, I know he’s already made a fortune, but watching all those performers – the dancing, the singing, the stage, the lighting, the humanity of the show – that should earn buckets of money.

And anyway, Miranda has now given it to us (for $6.95) – to watch and absorb how inexhaustibly creative it is – so clever, so witty and wise. And beautiful, and joyful, and tragic. It rewards multiple viewings (on top of all our listening to the soundtrack).

When I saw “Hamilton” two years ago (a lifetime ago), I kept thinking of the line, “immigrants get the job done!” (Even more true now in the time of essential workers.) This time I saw the inequities built into the whole American endeavor from the beginning. And registered, as the new Americans begin to create a nation (mocked by the glorious King George), the partisan fighting, the negotiating, the compromises.

On television it’s more personal, but it lacks the electricity of real people making this happen in front of a live audience (remember those times, sitting close to strangers!). But filmed during a performance in the early days on Broadway – now we get closeups of faces, beautiful Phillipa Soo as Eliza, singing her heart out in joy and grief, Miranda himself as Hamilton, expressive face alight. I would never have imagined it could be so luminously transferred to the screen – preserving the magic for all to see.

Firecrackers boomed across our island as we watched, and I finally felt slightly celebratory – for the creativity of Americans, for Black Lives Matter protesters (along with pain that this is still necessary on this 244th birthday). And maybe a glimmer of hope that we won’t “give up our shot!”

10 thoughts on ““Hamilton” Redeems July Fourth in the Time of COVID-19

  1. We were so lucky to see it with Helen and Nick when we were in NYC. And we were also delighted by the way Miranda shared the wealth with his cast and crew, not only investors. For me, who listens to rap not at all, it was a revelation. I have the CD, and enjoy it when I listen, but mostly revert to classical in these trying times. I am finding my creativity stifled by the grinding relentlessness of anxiety, isolation and endless search for something meaningful to do with my time. It comforts me to hear of your creativity proceeding apace. And… your quilting fabric masks, per the Washington Post, are revealed through testing to be the preferred non-medical mask! Thanks again.

  2. Thanks Katy, beautifully expressed- touched both Steve and I. We saw it on Broadway, and like so many others watched it on the tv this weekend as well.

  3. I am probably one of the only people in the world not to have seen Hamilton yet. But I will. It must have been so very thrilling to see it in person. The arts have really taken a hit over the last months. How sad to have museums and theaters shuttered. But creativity still abounds, and artists don’t give up easily. xoxo

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