Monday, August 9, 2010

In The Heights Hits OCPAC

[In The Heights National Touring Company. Photo by Joan Marcus]
Every great American story starts somewhere else. It’s just the basics of how America began, and why it remains the final stop on a universal brand of “Manifest Destiny.” This land of promise only remains a greener-looking pasture because of that torch-bearing, copper lady of freedom standing in New York Harbor, heralding in all people with a somewhat forgotten welcome: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"  

In The Heights is like any great American story – just with amazing hip-hop choreography and musical numbers. But besides all the infectious beats and dance, it’s about those who come here and the struggles, lessons, and even humor that accompany different people bringing uprooted lives and cultures to re-root in new lands.

Now playing at OCPAC in Costa Mesa, the Tony-award winning musical In The Heights pivots around the life and relations of young, corner-shop owner Usnavi (whose parents proudly named him after a regal ship they saw while entering America which bore the name U.S. Navy). Usnavi is the hub who connects a community of colorful characters living in Washington Heights, a Latino barrio in northern Manhattan. He and his friends and neighbors come from all over the world with one common dream: to make a home for themselves away from home, to find belonging in a place they seemingly do not belong in.
 [Lexi Lawson, Joseph Morales IN THE HEIGHTS Tour. Photo by Chelsea Lauren]

As much as it could be a story about immigrants, it is a story about humanity, about one of life’s most basic questions: how to find your place, your space, your meaning. In The Heights presents the perfect formula for solving the problem: embrace the humor, the singing, the dancing, the friends, the loved-ones, that make life worthwhile, no matter where you are or where you came from. It’s like Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald) once said, “I don't want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally.”

The musical soars in story, and it grooves and moves in beat and word. Through rap, rhythm, break dancing, and just good ol’ fashioned vocal-pipe work, a lively, colorful story is told as only Latinos could tell one. The package definitely has Tony’s seal of approval: In The Heights won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical; Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show's creator, won the Tony Award for Best Music and Lyrics; Andy Blankenbuehler won for Best Choreography; and Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman won for Best Orchestrations. Besides that, the original cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, and Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a feature film based on the smash-hit musical. Needless to say, I’m not the only one who enjoyed it.
 [Lexi Lawson, Isabel Santiago, Arielle Jacobs, Genny Lis Padilla IN THE HEIGHTS Tour. Photo by Chelsea Lauren, 2010]

In The Heights continues it’s feel-good beat at OCPAC through August 15th. Snag a pair of tix, enroll an accomplice, and head over to the performing arts center for a night of culture, humor, and melody.
A tip: the dialogue moves fast and the rapping can be hard to understand at points, but think of it as watching a Tarantino film. You’re not likely to catch all the dialogue and deep wit, but you will catch 70%, which in these kinds of productions is more than enough to captivate and delight.
Peripheral entertainment of the night: hearing older show attendees making excited and impressed comparisons to “that boy on So You Think You Can Dance” and Eminem.


On my iPod: "To The Dogs Or Whoever" by Josh Ritter

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails