‘Hamilton’ can help fire up your Fourth

By now you’re probably aware that the Fourth of July fireworks for the City of Vero Beach have been canceled due to COVID-19. But don’t let that dampen your holiday celebrations. There are a couple of wondrous spots on your television lineup, which should thrill adults and children alike.

First up is the Broadway blockbuster “Hamilton,” which begins streaming this Friday, July 3 on Disney Plus. The Lin-Manuel Miranda musical about the American Revolution-era life and death of Alexander Hamilton has lured 2.6 million theater patrons to New York, London, Los Angeles and many other big towns to pay more than $800 for the best seats, if they could find one. But now, it’s part of your $6.99 subscription to Disney Plus. “Hamilton” is not what you’d call part of the Great American Musical tradition. No Rodgers and Hammerstein, nor Lerner and Lowe … not even Kander and Ebb. This is Lin-Manuel Miranda, which means hip-hop, R&B ballads and inventive rap with engaging beat and smart lyrics. Miranda, who also created “In the Heights,” became fascinated with Hamilton, who was born into poverty but rose to become the country’s first treasury secretary. He drifted into American lore when his political rival, Aaron Burr, who was born to wealth and stature, shot him in a duel. Miranda’s musical casts mostly people of color into the roles, commenting on the theme of rebels forging a new nation. In 2016, the show won the Tony Award for best new musical and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. This streamed presentation is not just a static shot of a performance on stage; it is a live-capture film of two performances. It was shot over a little more than three days in 2016 with members of the original Tony Award-winning cast. Director Thomas Kail worked with director of photographer Declan Quinn to get the right angles to capture key moments. Nine cameras were installed around the Broadway theater, including one looking at the audience so you can get a sense of actually being in the theater. More than 100 microphones were used. And, between the public performance, the cast came together again to do a few of the numbers so that on-stage cameras could get close-ups. In all, the film captures the entire 161 minutes of the Broadway production, including intermission. The only change has been the muting of a couple profanities so that it could get a PG-13 rating. (However, one swear word remains.) It cost about $10 million to shoot the live-capture. Disney paid $75 million for rights to stream the production. It had originally been planned to go into theaters in October, but with the COVID-19, it was decided to move it to streaming and to the Fourth of July weekend.

Grab some sparklers and join in the fun with PBS’ 40th annual presentation of “A Capitol Fourth.” There will be fireworks and a special tribute to all those amazing first responders and essential workers who have helped us all throughout the pandemic. The show will be hosted by John Stamos and Vanessa Williams. Unlike past shows, this one is pre-recorded. Because of COVID-19, organizers did not want to chance bringing out the 700,000 people who normally flock to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. That was a good idea, because that event packs people in like sardines. Even leaving the place takes a good hour and you’re shoulder to shoulder heading toward your car or a bus. So, instead, this year’s “Capitol Fourth” will have performances from New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. It will be presented on TV, radio and digital media. This special presentation will also honor our nation’s African-American heroes and wounded warriors and their families. While the performances have been recorded, the fireworks display will be live and shot from different points of view around Washington. While you’re watching, you might also want to find some of the family-friendly fun at the PBS’ Capitol Fourth website. You can test your knowledge by taking an American History quiz, and there’s one for children as well. (Clue: On our 200th anniversary, more than two dozen tons of fireworks were exploded over the Washington Monument.) The website also teaches you the names of what you’ll ooh and aah at in the “Name that Firework” page. And you can also download and print some Fourth of July coloring pages for your little ones. For all that, go to PBS.org/a-capitol-fourth, then click onto 2020 concert, then click onto “Fireworks & Fun.”

Leave a Comment