Saturday, August 07, 2010

In The Heights

Photo by Joan Marcus

In The Heights is one of those rare shows that starts quickly and manages to keep its brisk pace throughout, without feeling rushed, or worse, lagging halfway through the second act while the cast catches its breath. The quick rhyming by Usnavi (currently played by Corbin Bleu) introduces the setting and all of the major characters before the show is even ten minutes old, yet the audience is never lost.

Rather, they are welcomed in by the community. Set in the Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights, around the 181st Street subway station, the show could easily become a cultural study that the audience watches but doesn't invest in. Instead, with a clever wink to such thinking, Usnavi lets the audience know that he knows what you're thinking -- "I'm up sh*t's creek, I ain't never been north of 96th Street!" Yet the audience is drawn in. The music, dancing, and complete joy that infuse the show are nothing short of infectious. In The Heights apeals to such a broad audience -- adults who can empathize with the day to day struggles, teens looking for a more relatable musical, and kids attracted by the wildly talented Corbin Bleu -- that it could easily paint its characters with broad strokes, but instead each is fully realized and wonderfully complex.

In The Heights deserves every one of its five Tony Awards. Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring the people down the street -- just make sure you see it, because no other show on Broadway captures summer in the city quite like this.

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