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Making it In the Heights

   
 

has never been so much fun. . .

   

 

  

 

In the Heights is composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda's joyful answer to Leonard Bernstein's 1957 West Side Story which memorably celebrated Latino culture on the Broadway stage.  Brilliantly directed by Thomas Kail and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, it captures the vibrant canvas of Washington Heights's Latino community.  If you haven't taken in the show as yet, Its sensual rhythms and musical renditions are the perfect tropical answer to November's cold weather.  Bachata, salsa, hip-hop, and merengue merge gloriously to the telenovela-like subplots  that take place over a Fourth of July weekend. 

The cast is a richly woven tapestry of characters.  Miranda can also act - he delivers a rousing performance as Usnavi, the young bodega owner and barista who serves coffee every morning to the neighborhood locals, as does Olga Merediz as his cherished Abuela Claudia.  Priscilla Lopez and Carlos Gomez portray the hard working gypsy cab entrepreneurs Camila and Kevin Rosario and Christopher Jackson is their dutiful star employee Benny who falls in love with their daughter Nina (Mandy Gonzalez), a freshman at Stanford.  Andréa Burns is perfectly on point as Daniela, the fiery gossip and local hair salon owner who sets the entire neighborhood atwitter with salacious innuendo.

As the play unfolds, the protagonists face thorny dilemmas.  Will Priscilla and Carlos be able to pay Nina's rising tuition or will she have to quit college?  Will Nina and Benny overcome parental objections and live happily ever after?  And most importantly, who holds the wining ticket to a large lottery jackpot?  Slowly, the reality of gentrification begins to set in, but no one seems too concerned.  Usvani will stay in the 'hood and continue to serve his customers their morning caffeine fix.  Daniela, always ahead of the game, has already put a deposit down on a place in the Bronx.  As for Nina and Benny, Cupid wins in the end. 

In The Heights succeeds in large part because of the sheer enthusiasm of the cast and production team.  Miranda, who is just 28, originally wrote In the Heights while at Wesleyan, and it has lost none of its youthful effervescence.  When the show is over, there is the irresistible urge to call one's broker and move uptown!

Nominated for thirteen Tony Awards in 2008, In the Heights won in four categories including Best Musical. 

 

See: In the Heights, Richard Rogers Theatre

Listen: In the Heights, the soundtrack

 

Tags:  theatre  broadway    

 

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