In The Heights Is Muy Caliente

Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 7:00 am By: Michall Jeffers Source: Woman Around

What a treat! Last night, before the performance of In The Heights, who should appear on the Westchester Broadway stage but Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, himself. Miranda, who wrote both the music and the lyrics for the show, charmed the audience with the story of how he had originally conceived a one-act play when he was just a youth, and how the project grew. “I always wanted my show to be produced uptown, but I never thought it would be this far uptown,” he joked. Miranda’s dad also welcomed the audience, and, in the tradition of parents everywhere, revealed a somewhat embarrassing family secret. Because Lin-Manuel’s mother and father had been so short of money, and consequently, they couldn’t afford insurance, the baby had been born with the help of a midwife, not a doctor. The now wildly successful composer has come a long way, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

In The Heightsis the story of the neighbors and neighborhood of Washington Heights, at “the top of the map” in Manhattan. The silhouette of the George Washington Bridge looms center stage in the background. The Hispanic community is warm and protective of its own, but there are tensions among the different nationalities; conflict sometimes erupts between Puerto Ricans and Dominicans; African-Americans can feel left out in the cold altogether. The pride of the neighborhood is the girl who got all the scholarships and academic glory, Nina Rosario (Arielle Jacobs). Now, she’s come home to face everyone with the news that she’s bombed out at Stanford. How will she tell her hardworking parents, Kevin (Benjamin Perez) and Camila (Nicole Paloma Sarro)? Even the neighbors, beauty parlor stylists Daniela (Ariana Valdes) and Carla (Nina V. Negron) are affected. The only people who don’t seem upset are Abuela Claudia (Christina Aranda), who believes all things come right with patience and faith, and Kevin’s employee, Benny (Fatye), who loves Nina no matter what.

Meanwhile, the owner of the local bodega, the good-hearted Usnavi (Perry Young) worships gorgeous Vanessa (Gizle Jimenez) from afar. Finally, his exuberant younger cousin, Sonny (Greg Laucella), asks Vanessa out on Usnavi’s behalf. She agrees, but the focus of her life is to leave The Heights for a studio apartment in the village. Everyone dreams big when it’s discovered that the bodega has had a lottery winner. $96,000 is a lot of money, and there are as many ways it could be spent as there are characters in the ‘hood.

The second act reveals who will stay and who will go; the neighborhood will never be the same, but the sense of kinship and the bonds of affection remain intact.

In The Heightswon four Tonys in 2008, including Best Musical. The music is a mix of rap and salsa; the plotline