Nestled at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, way past all the trendy restaurants and the streets of neatly gentrified brownstones, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is the neighborhood called Washington Heights. When I lived there as a child the community was made up, mostly, of middle-class German Jewish immigrants.
But that was a very long time ago. Now Washington Heights is home to a Latino population — Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Hondurans, Dominicans — all the multitudes of the Caribbean. And the stately sounds of Beethoven and Bach have been replaced by the vigorous rhythms of salsa and rap. Music just begging for a Broadway show.
The inevitable show, conceived and written (music and lyrics) by Lin-Manuel Miranda is the singularly spectacular musical “In the Heights.” An updated “West Side Story,” without the gang-fights, “In the Heights” presents a Utopian world of “homies” all working together in their tightly structured community. It’s a love fest, and you’re bound to love it!
I was fortunate enough to see it in New York with its original Broadway cast, an incredibly talented and energetic ensemble. It will have a different cast in Los Angeles, but with the caliber of its musical numbers and the exuberance of Andy Blankenbuehler’s rip-roaring choreography, the show can’t do anything but bounce you right out of your seat.
“In the Heights” won four Tony Awards in 2008, for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Orchestration, and Choreography. Need I say more?
As for the plot, it isn’t complicated and doesn’t distract from the singing and dancing. It’s about people trying to better themselves, trying to leave the barrio, trying to move on. Some do; some don’t. In fact, it’s much like a Latino version of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Except without the bittersweet ending.
“In the Heights” is definitely the best musical of the year, and I can’t urge you enough to get tickets now for its production at the Pantages Theatre. You’ll be so glad you did!
“In the Heights” runs through July 25
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.