In The Heights

Aired on April 30 and May 8.

Where do I begin with a show like this?  Do I wait for the end to give it a star rating to keep you in suspense?  Let’s try that and see how it works.

This fabulous musical crackles and sizzles like steaks on a barbie.  It takes place in upper Manhattan–Washington Heights to be exact.  True to geography because, as anyone who has been there in the last however many years knows it is Latino, as is the cultural sense of this musical.  While it does enhance one’s enjoyment to understand a few simple Spanish words and phrases, that is by no means necessary.  The ethnic mix of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and a smattering of other nationalities makes for a mini melting pot which clearly does reflect New York City in many neighborhoods or, as they are properly called:  Barrios.  

You don’t have to be Latino to appreciate this show, just as you don’t have to be a basketball aficionado to appreciate Michael Jordan, Black to understand the greatness of MLK, Jr. or Jackie Robinson or a horseplayer to appreciate Secretariat, the most magnificent racehorse that ever lived.  It is ethnic in a way that can be appreciated by all.

If you hate music and dance and theatre and pathos and laughter;  if you don’t like sentiment crowned with tunes and lyrics which masterfully tell a story across the plane of genres:  rap, pop, SALSA, salsa, salsa then stay home under your bed until the rapture because that is all that is left for you.

Attending Broadway and off-Broadway plays is like sifting through the arid rubble of a gold mine, finding crumbs along the way, then finding one big fat shiny, golden nugget called In the Heights!

It would have taken that famous 800 lb. gorilla sitting on my feet to keep my toes from tapping during these fleeting two hours and fifteen minutes.  I generally enjoy a little girl watching in the lobby during intermission, but in this case I just couldn’t wait for Act II to begin.  Sorry ladies.  On the way to my seat after the break I grabbed the friendly usher who had shown us to our seats and did a couple of turns with her in the aisle.  When I got to my seat I found myself reaching for my seat belt–literally–before I realized what I was doing.  

Still waiting for the star rating?

This play is Tony worthy as best musical, best set design, best lots of things and I expect it will be nominated for all of those.  Most especially for choreography as there were at least 21 actors on stage at one point, each of them moving, all of them choreographically resplendent, and the Richard Rodgers’ stage is not a large one.  There were layers,  ground level, up some stairs on apartment balconies–  (fire escapes?).  There are some Yiddish terms thrown in for fun and at one point there is a blackout and the actors all whip out their cell phones to illuminate the scene.  In one brief moment the orchestra conductor becomes involved as a dancer takes his hand.

There is only one way they could have improved this play.  They could have wafted smoke across the audience to make the fireworks display more realistic. 

Nothing is for everybody, but this play is for you.  One actor says to his love:  “The only room with a view is a room with you in it.”

Still waiting for that star rating?  Nah, I’ll just make you guess.