Review “In The Heights”: It’s Up There!
Broadway in Chicago presents
Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Music Direction by Alex Lacamoire
Choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler
Directed by Thomas Kail
Buy tickets thru January 3rd
Baby, it may be cold outside but it’s sizzling on stage! Broadway in Chicago presents a perfect escape from the frigid temperatures; In The Heights is set in the sultry summer days of the Washington Heights neighborhood, located in northernmost Manhattan. The 2008 Tony© Award for Best Musical is gentrifying! It fuses the old with the new. Traditional and rap singing. Salsa and break dancing. Spanish and English speaking. Wise old woman and cocky young punk. In The Heights is a “coming of age” story of a predominantly Latino essence neighborhood. Growing up collectively as a community, neighbors must now decide individually what they want to be, because they have grown up.
Unisex salon, corner store, bridge, subway station, the set designed by Anna Louizos has a familiarity that suggests, “I’ve been on that street in New York!” Baggy shorts, tight skirts, high heels, the costumes designed by Paul Tazewell have an authenticity that proposes, “I know I’ve seen that guy before… maybe on that street in New York!” Walking backwards, getting coffee, buying piragua, 2008 Tony Winner for Best Choreography Andy Blankenbuehler translates everyday movement into well-orchestrated dance sequences that hint, “I wish I danced more in my everyday life like they do in New York!” The dancing is spectacular! Dancing to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award winning Best Music and Lyrics, the sublime ensemble delivers a superstar performance in a seemingly effortless and natural style.
The cast is definitely an ensemble. Actualizing the gentrification community theme, it’s the ensemble as a whole that is memorable. A standout in the cast, Elise Santora (Abuela Claudia) plays the wise old sage with inspirational singing “Paciencia y fe” (“Patience and Faith”). Her interactions with Kyle Beltran (Usnavi), the rapping, love-struck corner store owner, are some of the best gentrification moments. Throw in sidekick Sonny (played by Shaun Taylor-Corbett), the threesome is a heart-warming multi-generational, blended family. The Unisex Salon duo, Isabel Santiago (Daniela) and Genny Lis Padilla (Carla) are the sassy girls next door singing lines like, “tell me something I don’t know.”
In The Heights blends cultures, generations, and neighbors to create a community that everyone will enjoy visiting!
Sidenote to the ladies: when visiting the Cadillac Theatre, head downstairs for your intermission break. In the heights of the second floor, the facilities are inadequate for the crowd and may result in a sprint to Act II.
Channeling the latino fever, Steve says the show “makes you want to dance, even if you can’t!”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Preshow, we head to Petterino’s at 150 North Dearborn, the best dinner alternative in Chicago’s Theatre District. In the bar, Eddie should win awards for choreographing a two-course meal within an hour time constraint. Pouring the wine and gliding through the bustling maze of tables, Eddie has incorporated dancing into his daily life. We decide to split The Wedge salad and potato crusted tilapia. Although delicious, The Wedge arrives at the table looking more like a less spectacular relative, The Chunk. The tilapia is melt-in-the-mouth wonderful.
Post show, we leave the sizzle of In The Heights to brave the frigid Chicago weather. Walking four blocks to the Atwood Café in Hotel Burnham, we are dismayed to find its closing for the evening. The friendly host suggests Encore located directly next to the Cadillac Theatre. Not amused by cold backtracking, we hop in a cab and head north. Where is the hot spot on a wintery Tuesday night in Chicago? Pops for Champagne at 601 North State. We split the almond crème brulee and enjoy a nice glass of Valpolicella wine. After experiencing the perfect nightcap, we head home to a neighborhood awaiting choreographic inspiration as the next big thing… “In The Lakeview”