By Jeff Walsh
"In The Heights" seems like a Broadway show that shouldn't exist. A show about relationships, family, and community without an ounce of cynicism that tells heartfelt stories of Latino immigrants living in Manhattan? How is this even onstage, let alone winning Best Musical for 2008?
After nearly two years of anticipation, I finally got to see "In The Heights" on Broadway in December. Months of "Abuela" and "Piragua casting reality show parody" YouTube videos, and watching heartwhelming videos the cast made with a 10-year-old fan, and listening to the cast recording on my iPod was a lot more information than I usually have before seeing a show. I usually wait to get the cast recording after a show.
So, it was a bit strange to finally enter the theater on 46th street, and see the songs come to life, the dialogue that never existed on my iPod, the dancing, and… I just can't recommend it highly enough. To see show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda onstage as Usnavi surrounded by the amazing vision he has given to the world was a true gift.
The show doesn't have one central plotline, but is a mixed narrative involving a lot of different characters (like Rent). The show includes a taxi dispatch, a bodega, a hairsalon, and other neighborhood staples like Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of all the kids on the street, and the shaved ice seller who curses Mister Softee the way the other residents see their neighborhood becoming gentrified. The show features a mixtape of Latin beats, spoken word raps, and other musical styles fused together.
Unlike most shows reviewed on Oasis, In The Heights doesn't really have a gay angle in the show itself (earlier, unstaged incarnations of the show had one storyline, but it never made it to the final version). So our hook for Oasis is entirely openly gay actor Robin De Jesus as Sonny, a role which netted him a Tony nomination for best featured actor in a musical. (He was interviewed in Oasis when the show opened off-Broadway and again when he was nominated for the Tony). In the show, De Jesus plays Sonny, a straight thug with an eye for the ladies, an interesting political viewpoint, and a lot of funny lines. He was definitely one of the highlights of the show.
So, if you're in New York, you should definitely consider checking out In The Heights. This show has an amazing heart, a great message, perfect music, and a talented cast. What more could you ask for?