I first saw In The Heights off-Broadway with my dad. We both enjoyed it, but as soon as the lights came up, we turned to each other and said "I wish Mom was here." For those of you who don't know, my mom (and her brothers) grew up in Washington Heights, where this show takes place. I remember (this was at least ten years ago), my mom and I got in a cab and the cabbie asked us where we were going and if we were from here. "Oh yes," my mom replied happily. "I grew up on 156th and Broadway." The cabbie stopped short. "You're not going there now, right? Cuz I won't go there at night." As far as I know, the cabs go there now (gentrification is spreading further and further uptown), but that's always stuck with me.
My mom has always identified strongly with the culture associated with Washington Heights. I remember as a child, she would tell me, "Oh Lena, I know Dominicans, because I'm a Dominican" (which would really confuse me, since she's Chinese and Yugoslavian). This musical is so steeped in the music of Latinos, I just know that she would love it. I can picture her, dancing around in her seat as the beats wash over the audience.
That's actually one of the things that makes me love this show - the music. It seems to me that a lot of musical that try to bring in a "different" sound (like rock, rap, whatever) seem to do so at the expense of the musical form. Just because you're trying to pull away from the stigma of "musical" does not mean that you still don't have a story to tell. What I love about In The Heights is that the composer so clearly loves musicals and understands the form very well. He can bring his own sound into the mix and still tell a story clearly. It's really great and refreshing to hear.
Which brings me to the thing that I love the most about In The Heights: Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's composer, lyricist and star.
My love for him is two-fold. One - I have a huge "career crush" on him, meaning that I want to be him and write musicals and star in them on Broadway (there was an article on him in the NYTimes, titled "You're 27, here are millions to stage your musical" which I read not knowing anything about the show, hoping it was more of a "how-to" guide). Two - (Zack, stop reading this post now) He's so adorable and I love him. Ana and I saw him speak at The Dramatist's Guild with Jeanine Tesori and he was so humble and sweet. He seemed amazed that any of this could be happening and so happy to be a part of it. Plus, he called himself a geek and said how much he liked musicals. Thankfully, I've never actually met him and he has a girlfriend, so I can safely be in love with him from a distance (and of course, I really love Zack. Don't worry).
I recommend this show very highly. It's not necessary the best show I've ever seen, or the most intellectually stimulating. But there's something about the music that makes my heart fly out of chest and start fluttering around. I can't help it. Even if you don't like musicals, I think you'd like In The Heights. At least I hope you would. And so does Charles Isherwood, so if you don't like it, blame him and not me.