'In the Heights' packs a wallop in WestchesterPublished: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 7:00 am By: David Begelman Source: Stamford Advocate
"In the Heights," with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, exploded on the Broadway scene in 2008 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, after productions in Connecticut in 2005 and Off-Broadway in 2007.
Set in a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, the show was nominated for 13 Tony Awards. It won four of them. It was also up for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The musical dramatizes a number of universal themes like family and neighborhood solidarity, the value of tradition, the support of elders, the importance of higher education, love, financial security and ethnic identification.
But make no mistake about it -- the real attraction of this show is not its focus on issues of importance to all communities, but the group song and dance numbers that have you bouncing right out of your seat along with its salsa-sprinkled beats and rhythms. And it's no different in the current production of the musical at Westchester Broadway Theatre. All performers in its cast deliver -- and in spades.
Hudes' book for "In the Heights" doesn't grab you like those of "West Side Story," "South Pacific," "Fiddler On the Roof" or "Rent." The life struggles of its characters seem ratcheted down in importance when compared to those other shows.
When you get right down to it, Morgan Marcell's dance routines in the current Westchester show, based as they are on Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography in the original Broadway production, make the Hudes storyline sometimes seem perilously close to an exercise in kitsch.
You're so impressed by the group dance numbers, you could care less about whether Nina (played by the vocally accomplished Arielle Jacobs, reprising her featured role in the original production) has dropped out of school, to the dismay of her father, Kevin