The Battle of Yorktown

#hamilton #susanstrasser #amwriting #susanstrasserblog


…continued from last week…

After our lovely dinner and promenade on the terrace, it was time to get downstairs to the Opera House theatre in the Kennedy Center and get seated for our show!

When we got to our seats, we discovered we were in the last row of Orchestra seats. But it only took the opening number for us to realize that this was a gift. More on that in a second.

We distributed the golden programs with the iconic black Hamilton silhouette amongst ourselves so that everyone had one.

I was three seats from the end, with Ben and Liam on the aisle, but on my right periphery, I saw more theatergoers still coming in.

I took in the stage which looked JUST like the T.V. production— ropes, balconies, a ton of hardwood everywhere… was this really happening? I half thought… we’re about to see HAMILTON!!!!!!! To my left, sat Nancy, the girls, and Bill and Adam.

Then, I worried— would the stage rotate like it did on T.V.? From our view, the stage looked narrow and oval-shaped…

Then, it happened! WE were going to be in the room where it happened! The sparkling crystal chandeliers above our heads flickered! The last spectators almost ran to their seats. Then, the entire massive Opera House went dark and THE OPENING CHORDS of H A M I L T O N began. I held my breath.

The opening number “Alexander Hamilton” started.

By the second song, “My Shot,” I realized what a relief it was to be in the back row. We could sway to the beat a little (I love my friend Nancy! We shoulder bumped and whispered (and sang along softly under our masks) with just a little more ease than if we had rows of people behind us.

Act One builds the fantastic action that is Hamilton as we see Alexander’s love triangle with Angelica and Eliza unfold, his life-long rivalry with Aaron Burr build, his inner conflict to balance with important work and family, and then there’s this number toward the end of Act One entitled “Yorktown.”

I love every stinking song in this musical, but Yorktown was never my ultimate.

When Hamilton and Lafayette enter and embrace and exchange pleasantries at the beginning of the song, there are in full red, white, and navy blue revolutionary officer uniforms with shiny brass buttons.

“Til we meet again, let’s go!” Lafayette exclaims.

Then, the infectious ensemble kicks in with “I am not throwing away my shot! I am not throwing away my shot!”

Until this number, the background dancers—those men and women in the beige tights and corset outfits— pranced around dramatically, energetically, acrobatically! They emphasized the lead stars’ movements.

As the orchestra music built up in Yorktown, you begin to realize that EVERY DANCER on stage in this number has a red and blue American revolutionary coat on. They run, spin, and sing simple chorus words in between Hamilton, Washington, and Laurens retelling the battle of Yorktown.

When I watch Hamilton on TV, I am always caught up in the facial expressions of the actors because I can see them readily. But we couldn’t! As Hamilton rapped, then Layfayette and the dancers turned and swirled about, I realized the power of set design and lighting.

The red, white, and blue lighting! America! My heart swelled. A million years ago I had seen Les Miserables and its tale of the French revolution, which of course, has much in common with ours. And there’s Lafayette, front and center, an integral part of our history.

But at this moment, from the back row, the battle and the red, white, and blue lighting put me in the mind of a Revolutionary soldier, the value of life, and the struggles that our colonial era leaders and troops suffered.

“We won! We won!” our patriots shout.

And as our country’s colors flickered and flashed, the Battle of Yorktown transitioned to that famous lyric: “The world turned upside down, The world turned upside down…”

We’d done it. British soldiers leave defeated and the rest is history.

In the 1980s and 1990s, so many of my generation fell in love with Les Miz! While I watched this fantastic climax at the end of Part 1, it stirred a newfound, even deeper appreciation for Lin-Manual Miranda (I know, is that even possible? lol) Here was a musical about America’s founding. Miranda, 1st-generation American himself, had penned and crafted it over many years.

Just like Hamilton had an intense desire to help build our country, Miranda’s presentation of it in this most original of musicals— a musical about our founding fathers done to hip-hop, rap, and pop??? — a fresh take, that seen live… well, makes American history come alive!

Hamilton continues to play at the Kennedy Center until October 9. Highly recommended, no matter where you sit lol


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