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In the Heights: Go See This Show!

I guarantee you'll definitely cry, you'll laugh or you'll tap your toes consistently waiting to dance

By Carlos San Miguel
Published on LatinoLA: July 19, 2010


In the Heights: Go See This Show!


Take a gorgeous date, invite a friend or the whole familiaΤΗτ but GO SEE THIS SHOW while it's here and in a rare opportunity with the original creator & star ΤΗτ Lin-Manuel Miranda ΤΗτ who is only performing the L.A. shows during this first national tour straight from Broadway.

The show runs Tue ΤΗτ Sun, with one more week in LA, it closes at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood on July 25th ΤΗτ if you're lucky you can grab some of the few remaining seats. And FYI - $25 tickets are hopefully still available ΤΗτavoid a surcharge (via phone/ web) if you buy them at the box office in person.

http://www.intheheightsthemusical.com

http://www.broadwayla.org/production/show.info.asp?ID=27 - for the Pantages direct buy

Got your tickets? Now make sure you bring some tissues (especially you romantics or anyone with a heart, sense of humor or tear ducts) ΤΗτ especially if you enjoy laughing ΤΗτ because in addition to being touching at moments, it's also VERY FUNNY. And here's the good news ΤΗτ if you can't get tix for the last week of the L.A. show ΤΗτ the tour will still be local ΤΗτ next stop San Diego and then Costa Mesa until Aug 15th. After that it's sayonara as they head to Japan!

Now then ΤΗτ never heard of "In the Heights" and what's it about?

It's about a few days in a Latina/o community at the top of Manhattan called Washington Heights ΤΗτ it's about communidad, falling in love, passion, going to college and how hard that can be, coming home and leaving to follow your dreams, trying to make it day by day, working people's struggles and looking at the world from a diverse perspective and giving a voice to people & characters who just happen to be Latina/o.

Created by Lin-Manuel Miranda (a young Puerto Rican brother from New York) ΤΗτ this musical for the new decade is a tour de force ΤΗτ winning multiple Tony Awards ΤΗτ including best NEW Musical and it's all on the shoulders of this incredibly talented, humble and PROUD Latino who had a dream and through years of hard work ΤΗτ he's living it and sharing it with the world. His energy in both the writing of the play/music and his personal performance is truly infectious.

As is the energy and talent of the entire cast ΤΗτ pretty much ALL Latina/os or people of color/mixed backgrounds and ages ΤΗτ including with a good dose of dialogue and singing in Spanish and English ΤΗτ vacillating between Salsa, Hip-hop and other styles of music. This is not a musical you get bored at or are looking at your watch. From the first song until the last you will be tapping to the music and fighting the urge to get out of your seat and start dancing in the aisles. The time flies by and when the finale comes ΤΗτ you're wishing for more.

The story follows multiple characters Usnavi (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his friend Benny (Rogelio Douglas, Jr), the BEATIFUL Nina (Arielle Jacobs) & GORGEOUS Vanessa (Lexi Lawson) and many others such as Nina's parents, Kevin and Camila Rosario (Danny Bolero & Natalie Toro), Usnavi's young cousin Sonny (Shaun Taylor-Corbett) & his friend Graffiti Pete (dancer extraordinaire Jose Lopez) but it never gets confusing, bogged down or slow. Each of the cast members (26 in total ΤΗτ including the ensemble) gets a chance to shine more than once as actors, singers and dancers. And not to forget the musicians in the orchestra pit, lead by conductor Justin Mendoza) - EVERYTHING about this show is the real deal ΤΗτ all live and all flawless ΤΗτ not one misstep or off-key note, every single performer brings it 100%!

With so much going on and such complicated dance choreography each minute of the show is like a maze of constant movement, world-class singing and fun fresh dialogue ΤΗτ with plenty of one liners delivered perfectly by all of the actors - it's a true work of living breathing art ΤΗτ which is what all plays strive for.

Just watching how much fun the cast is having is beyond explanation ΤΗτ you can tell how much they're enjoying themselves not just as actors ΤΗτ but actors of color who know that this show is different from other plays because of the characters they're playing and about things we can all relate to ΤΗτ the young guy who pines for the pretty girl but is shy to ask her out, the smart girl who is the first in her family to go to college (Stanford, no less), the mom and dad small business owners who are trying to keep their business afloat in tough times and the Abuela (Elsie Santoro) to everyone in the neighborhood who helps them remember what's important in life watching them all grow up as life has changed. And add to the mix all the characters of the neighborhood who make us smile remembering wherever we each come from.

This is truly a LATINO play - by, for and WITH Latina/os!!

Any critiques? Not from me, but some people might say ΤΗτ "it's not political enough" - i.e. the songs or story don't say enough like a Culture Clash play might ΤΗτ well ΤΗτ look at it this way ΤΗτ this musical is a branch from the same tree and it's more political than meets the eye ΤΗͺ including the night I saw it - a line about the immigration issues in Arizona and tons of moments and dialogue throughout the play ΤΗτ i.e. Nina registering people to vote.

It might just not be as in your face as a protest sign but like many musicals ΤΗτ this is a story about love and friendship, family and "the neighborhood" and one major thing this show is doing that "Zoot Suit" or other shows couldn't do before this is simultaneously be a MAJOR success on Broadway and tour the country opening new doors for the Latino POV (in places like Ohio, Wisconsin and Japan!) and work for so many performers of color - who are becoming the Rita Moreno, Eddie Olmos, Sal Lopez and Enrique Castillo's of the next generation. And unlike "Zoot Suit" ΤΗτ this show truly highlights SEVERAL talented Latinas ΤΗτ like original cast members Karen Olivo and Mandy Gonzalez among many others of ALL ages, as a "senior" cast member Eslie Santoro's solo song rocks the house!

From a "political" standpoint this amazing play is not the end of the conversation (about "serious matters") - but rather just the beginning and a chance for many people outside the Latina/o community to open their minds and appreciate what all people share in common. I wouldn't be surprised if one or more of the actors who get cast in the movie version of "In the Heights" win an Oscar or the movie wins TONS of awards .... which in turn will open more doors ... it will soon be time for J Lo to move over.

This play broke the glass ceiling ... multiple Tony awards & wins ... all by Latino/as and fully bilingual and multi-cultural casting and as this play is produced in high schools and colleges around the country ... little by little it will continue to chip away against the injustices most actors of color still experience and provide hope for some young actors who never had a play they felt spoke for them even a little ... in Spanish & English.

Here's some links for videos you might enjoy watching ΤΗτ this show is definitely something special not to be missed and Lin-Manuel Miranda now joins our artistic Latina/o luminaries & ground-breakers like Culture Clash, Jose Rivera, Gregory Nava, Luis Valdez and others.

Here's a flash mob of hundreds at Universal City walk recently - performing one of the songs ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klf8IBrXFWY

PBS Great Peformances Part 1 ΤΗτ 6 - a PBS documentary on the Broadway opening
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/in-the-heights-chasing-broadway-dreams/preview-of-in-the-heights-chasing-broadway-dreams/761/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUgcOVFhfXM&NR=1 part 1 ΤΗτ 6 on Youtube

Lin Manuel Miranda interview ΤΗτ 2 ten minute interviews 1 year apart
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEIgnYeigbQ - Lin Manuel interview - part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKzhS96KdtY&feature=related - Lin Manuel part 2

Recording Session, 2008 Grammy Award Winner
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReF6sEABURI

a site w/ some of the lyrics from the show
http://jayceemusicals.webs.com/in_the_heights/index.html#06

Lin-Manuel Miranda's acceptance speech at the Tony Awards (it's good)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozuEXtuM1RM

two scenes from the Broadway show (but without Lin-Manuel Miranda)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wF7BAbrtUk&feature=relatedt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNrSXhk7cGU

Lin-Manuel Miranda kicked a door open and he's continuing to bring as many Latina/os with him as he can ... including actors like Danny Bolero and Natalie Toro ΤΗτ who play Kevin and Camila Rosario ΤΗτ the parents of Nina (the beautiful and SMART young college student) and owners of Rosario's Taxi Service.

Natalie Toro is of Puerto Rican background born in New York, "When I was in high school I was always involved in the arts from when I was 8 all the way to 18, pretty much I wanted to be a singer - and I went to the high school for music and arts."

One day the Boston Conservatory of Music came to her school to audition people and she got in.
"My mother was a single mother at the time and she worked 3 or 4 jobs so I could get the best schools and I got a lot of scholarships and when I got into college I started studying acting.

Then all of the sudden I got the acting bug - I didn't see a lot of plays growing up and I discovered that talent in school and then I wanted it so bad and right after college ΤΗτ I was lucky enough to got on Broadway. And that was it ΤΗτ it was great and it was meant to be!"

"But at that time Latinas and Latinos were not happening ΤΗτ it was very difficult to be Latina in order to work. But I got the Broadway show without an agent ΤΗτ it just happened. I was in the most famous Broadway show at that time (Les Miserables) - but I couldn't get an agent. It was very difficult. I'ld invite agencies and pay for them to come and they didn't know what to do with me - so I stayed there for a long time because what else was I going to do ΤΗτ quit the job and then what? This was in the early 90's and it just wasn't happening being a Latina."

But through talent and perseverance Toro has continued working in Broadway shows and national tours all over the country but is definitely having a blast finally being in a show that celebrates her Latina identity and background, where she can let her natural accent come out.

She has been with this first national tour since it started in Sept 2009, "it doesn't matter where the show goes ΤΗτ it's a hit. I think because it's a very universal story ΤΗτ you can actually take the story anywhere. You could put it in an Irish neighborhood, in a Jewish neighborhood ΤΗτ it's very "ethnic" and very universal and speaks to everyone. Everyone has a grandma ΤΗͺ there are people that might have a mother (which is like my character) ΤΗτ but everyone will identify with someone on that stage.

We're really enjoying performing everywhere. It's really nice to see people of color in the audience ΤΗτ this huge different ethnic backgrounds when we come out to sign autographs."

And for those who haven't had a chance to see the show yet, she says, "If you don't buy tickets now you're not going to get in - get your butts in the seats ΤΗτDo whatever you have to do - if you want to see a great piece of theater ΤΗτ especially if this is your first time ΤΗτ come see "In the Heights."

Danny Bolero, who some local theater goers may remember as Cesar Chavez from a few years ago in "Ruben & Cesar" a musical by Ed Begley, Jr. in North HollywoodΤΗτ is a local Chicano who grew up in El Sereno and originally started with the play in the Broadway show as an ensemble and understudy but then was asked to join the touring company as a lead character.

"I was a very shy kid, (becoming an actor) was my way of communicating ΤΗτ it was my outlet ΤΗτ I found I could be anything I wanted if I pretended to be someone else. And I realized, I started singing at a very young age and it kind of went hand in hand.

I went to All State Grammer School and Cathedral High School (locally) and I ended up getting two vocal scholarships and when my parents realized I was serious they started helping me get into private classes and music study.'

"When I got out of high school ΤΗτ I got introduced to Margo Albert at Plaza de la Raza.
And it was all free ΤΗτ she donated her time. I was very lucky there. Over the years she encouraged us (the students) to write ΤΗτ her idea was the only way to make work happen is do it yourself ΤΗτ which is exactly what Lin Manuel did."

"We started writing a monologue and we ended up working on that monologue for 7 years.
And the goal was every time we performed it ΤΗτ was to make it new, make it fresh make it real every time. We studied with her up to her death."

After continuing to pursue acting and getting his union card he was cast in the Broadway revivial and eventually the national tour of "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." After that he took time off from acting to take care of his family.

"My father had Alzheimer's and then my mother also - I quit the business for about 4 years and
became their caregiver up until their passing in 1999 and ever since then I've been back on the road and rediscovering who I am and what I am and luckily this show came along and I became a part of it."

"I remember calling my family ΤΗτ that I got the call that I was doing the tour ΤΗτ I cried a little bit and I'ld been working on trying to get this for a long time and the fact that it paid off ΤΗτ it really hit me. I called my coach, my voice teacher and everyone was very excited for me."

"I'ld never heard of Lin Manuel Miranda before ΤΗτ but when I first heard the CD ΤΗτ I was mesmerized by the lyrics ΤΗτ the man is a genius. He has a knack of touching on people's heart strings. He doesn't hit you over the head with what he's trying to say ΤΗτ he just states it very simply and the impact is gigantic."

"If you get to the theater early ΤΗτ he'll be out there playing handball with the other cast members ΤΗτ he's there playing and inviting everyone to play with him - I think of him like a pied piper, he gets on stage and he just jumps from one side of the stage to the other, weaving his little spell on you."

"It's been incredible to see people accept the show for what it is. It's a celebration of three days in the life of this community and it just happens to be a Latino community, so it ends up being a celebration of Latino-ness. And it's done respectfully and with a lot of carino."

"But it speaks to everyone ΤΗτ and everyone can understand that ΤΗτ it may be called by a different word, but they understand that family and that tradition. And the need to know where you're from and where you're going."

Among the cast Bolero says, "Everyone celebrates each other's background - I'll never forget the first reading in NY when we all sat down and everyone introduced themselves. Where you go around and you hear all the surnames - Toro, Rodriguez, Lopez and all these Latino names ΤΗτit's quite an honor and I'm very proud to be a part of this group."

On the topic of the show not being "political enough" ΤΗτ Bolero says, "The reality is it's a musical ΤΗτ you don't have to change people's lives and make decisions on world affairs because of it. I believe it's accurate ΤΗτ at least from the neighborhood I came from. Working class families trying to help their kids make it thru to the next level to go further than they did."

Asked about young (or old) people wanting to pursue acting or any part of show business, he says "If you really want to do this business ΤΗτ whatever aspect of it ΤΗτ do it. Don't' let anyone stop you and find every which way you can to learn something new. Because anything you learn will push you forward. If you can't afford lessons ΤΗτ go out and see if you can barter for lessons. Tell them "I'll clean up your classroom or run your video camera if you let me sit on your class, there are always to learn something ΤΗτ even if you don't have the money. There are people who are willing to trade with you if you do their office work."

Bolero closed by saying about the show, "I guarantee you'll definitely cry, you'll laugh or you'll tap your toes consistently waiting to dance ΤΗτ you'll feel something from this show."

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