Sunday, March 9, 2008

Expect a Hot Fun Night When Visiting “In the Heights”

I am an avid theater-goer, and living less than forty-five minutes from Broadway, I tend to see a lot of the big musicals and Off-Broadway hits. I also see a lot of plays, but they aren’t necessarily on Broadway, as the “play” has become a rather rare commodity on the Great White Way. If a show doesn’t have something to make you tap your foot, or hum a tune, it doesn’t translate into big Box Office Bucks. And right now, shows like “Wicked” and “Hairspray” and “Spring Awakening” rule the boards.

So when tickets became available for a new musical called “In the Heights,” I naturally got mine in advance. The only thing I really knew about the show was that it had already achieved a very successful run Off-Broadway (like “Spring Awakening”), and was now making the big move to a much more spacious and profitable venue. With that kind of track record, it must be good, right? (Although I still have my issues about the overly-critiqued “Spring Awakening,” which I left feeling rather underwhelmed. Perhaps all the lofty praise had put a different expectation in my head, but I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. My teenage niece, on the other hand, loves the show and has already seen it four times.)

Anyway, I had no expectations for “In the Heights,” and I must say I was happily surprised by the production. Not that the various plotlines are anything new or extraordinary: there’s the nice guy in love with the hot girl, the hot girl who wants to leave the old neighborhood for a more glamorous life “downtown,” the smart girl who already left the neighborhood and is coming back because she failed in the world outside the Barrio, the smart-talking hairdresser who has a witty comment for almost every occasion, the older woman with health issues that is everyone’s best friend, the hot limousine company employee in love with the boss's daughter, the list goes on and on.

So while the show is filled with stock characters and familiar plotlines, there is something so engaging about the cast and music that you simply follow along for the ride. From the hip-hop/rap inspired opening number that tells you everything you need to know in ten minutes, to the high flying vocals that pepper the show with excitement, this was a very fun evening in the theater. The cast is excellent and the music keeps your foot tapping through the entire evening. I thought there were maybe one too many ballads, and some story devices that were a little lame. But overall this show is a good time and I highly recommend it.

Next on my theater-going agenda: Revivals of “South Pacific” and “Gypsy” starring the Great Lupone.

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