When most think of Broadway shows, some immediately picture the Rodgers and Hammerstein classics. Perhaps they think of the rousing score of Les Miserables. But most don't think of a story line starring a poor bodega owner with salsa-infused hip-hop numbers as your typical Broadway fare. But that's exactly what In the Heights is: a show that is not your typical Broadway fare, but still wows and amazes with the big showstopping numbers and dance sequences to keep even the most ardent Broadway purist tapping their feet to the beat.
In the Heights, which won the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 2008, comes from the brilliant mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda. If you're thinking that name sounds familiar, it's probably because his second show, Hamilton, was nominated this week for a record 16 Tony Awards. Hamilton, which tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers of our country, is a hip-hop musical with a multi-racial cast that is the hottest ticket this Broadway season. (I'll just be waiting over here, with bated breath, for a national tour.) If you're a fan of Hamilton, you'll be a fan of In the Heights, which is told in the same style.
In the Heights opens on a hot July day in the Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the Manhattan borough of New York City that is primarily populated by immigrants from the Dominican Republic. The musical focuses on the workers of three businesses: the de la Cruz Bodega (operated by the main protagonist, Usnavi, and his cousin Sonny -- who, quite frankly, steals the entire show with his antics), Rosario's taxi cab service (owned by Kevin and Camila, whose child, Nina, returns at the beginning of the show from her first year at Stanford University. Benny, Nina's love interest, also works as a driver, although he aspires to open his own company) and the local salon (where Vanessa, Daniela and Carla all work).
Without giving too much away, over the next three days, each of these people is tested in various ways. At the center of it all is the question of home. Are we home where we came from? Where our ancestors came from? Or is it the people, places and things that make up our home? For instance, personally, it's hard for me to define "home". I have lived in four states and nine cities. But more than the physical house is the people who make a place home, in my opinion. This is what Usnavi comes to realize when he is a breath away from leaving America to return to his ancestral home of the Dominican Republic. All it takes is a piece of art from the local tagger of beloved neighborhood matriarch, Abuela Claudia, to make the decision to stay and make his true home in Washington Heights.
This show has a great blend of Spanish and English-infused lyrics (but for those who don't speak Spanish, it's fairly easy to catch on to what the meaning is) and features a terrific diverse cast. This show is a must-see for anyone who loves their salsa and hip-hop and wants to hear a story that almost everyone can connect and relate to.
In the Heights, produced by Music Theatre of Denton, will be showing at the Campus Theatre May 6-8 and May 13-15. In the Heights is rated PG-13 because of adult language and adult situations (sex and drug use). Purchase tickets here.
Featured photo courtesy of James Jamison from MTD.