Lin-Manuel Miranda's "In the Heights" may be two years old now (and closing in January 2011), but the show remains fresh, witty, original and insightful. This Broadway musical follows a few days in the lives of a dozen residents of Washington Heights, particularly a young bodega owner named Usnavi, in the days before and after a major blackout leaves the neighborhood dark. More significantly for residents of Hudson Heights, the setting is the vicinity of the A Train Stop at 181st Street. I give Miranda and the set designers great credit for capturing the essence of our neighborhood, with appropriate references to its Latin American majority, creeping gentrification, and Irish and Jewish history.
Unlike most Broadway shows these days, this one generates true emotion, feeling and attachment to the plight of the characters who are struggling with money and longing for homes left behind in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The story is santitized, of course, for Broadway audiences. But it still feels real when Usnavi pines for a neighorhood girl, the winning lottery ticket is sold in the local bodega and the smartest girl in the barrio drops out of college. The singing, acting and dancing are top notch. And for the American Idol fans out there, the show now features Jordan Sparks in the role of Nina, the college dropout. (Someone had to tell me who she is. Her singing is great but her dancing is stiff).
So consider this a recommendation from a guy who generally rolls his eyes when someone recommends musicals.