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.
By Jeff Walsh
When I last interviewed Robin De Jesus in February 2007, it was the afternoon before the opening night of the Off-Broadway run of In The Heights. The show has since shut its doors Off-Broadway, retooled for a proper Broadway run, and has since swept the Tony nominations in the musical category, with 13 nominations including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (for show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda), Best Direction and Best Choreography.
But the nomination that brings us together here is Best Featured Performer in a Musical, for which Robin is one of the five nominees. I've been a fan of Robin's since first seeing him in the sweet movie Camp, where he played a gay teen with a straight crush. I'll be seeing In The Heights the next time I'm on the east coast (the show was dark between its Off-Broadway and Broadway runs when I was there last time).
So, between feeling so happy for Robin and figuring I should jump on any chance to feature a 23-year-old openly gay actor nominated for creating a role in a hot show on Broadway, we jumped on the phone recently to capture his life in this unique window before the awards air on CBS on June 15.