3rd Anniversary In the Heights

28 Jun

Another year, another musical.  In keeping with our little anniversary tradition we headed to the Pantages Theatre again and there was no one more excited than moi.  It always feels good walking through those wooden doors and pondering upon its rich history. “In the Heights” was actually not our first choice.  Karl and I were originally planning on watching The Lion King at the OCPAC theatre, but we didn’t get tickets soon enough (bummer).  It ended up being a good thing after all because there was so much going on that weekend we probably would not have been able to enjoy ourselves.  

We arrived 40 minutes early which was fantastic because we didn’t have to worry about parking.  I felt like were both skipping towards Will Call after having wolfed down a big brunch at church after mass this morning.  Haha.

“In the Heights” had piqued our curiosity because it has been repeatedly endorsed on the radio lately.  Plus, we learned that it had won 4 Tony Awards in 2008 for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations.  That’s even a better endorsement.   Notice that all of these awards are music-related.  Suffice to say, the music was the real star of the show. 
After the show. I learned that it’s best to wait a few minutes after the show ends before having your picture taken by the show poster.  This way you allow some time for the crowd to disperse (and enjoy a more comfortable Kodak errr…Lumix moment!)  
The making of a Broadway geek.

The set remained the same throughout the entire show, a gritty barrio against the backdrop of George Washington Bridge in New York City.


Karl got scolded by the usher after taking this picture.  That was quick!

At El Torrito Grill.  After being entertained by a Hispanic-themed musical, it seemed fitting to indulge in the same flavors as well.

“In the Heights” is basically about a group of Dominican denizens living in a barrio in the outskirts of New York City who all dream of a better life.  You’ll meet the wise grandma, gossipy hairstylists, funny street vendors, ambitious store clerks and a cab dispatcher who is in love with his boss’s daughter.  Much of the story focuses on college girl Nina who comes home from California to finally break the news to her parents–that she had dropped out of Stanford because college was getting very expensive and she couldn’t focus on school when she was working two jobs.  Naturally her parents become furious because she lied to them and didn’t seek their help.  The whole thing spirals into a family melodrama.  To make matters worse, she falls in love with cab dispatcher Benny, her father’s employee, who happens to be black.  This disappoints her parents even more and there’s that crucial scene when Nina doesn’t come home one night (hint, hint) leading them to become so sick and worried of her. 
Looking at the set before the show started, I was reminded of the “West Side Story.”  My  comparisons, however, ended there.  While the “West Side Story” focused more on the romance between the two lead characters, “In the Heights” dealt with several characters throughout the show and a potpourri of universal issues such as love, culture, parenting, prejudice and struggles that people from all walks of life can easily relate too.  It was almost like watching six different television screens in front of you at the same time.  Interestingly enough Karl noted that this was the first musical he’d seen where the lead is telling the story by rapping.  I can’t help but wonder how challenging it must have been for the writer to find the right words that rhymed with each other and be able tell the story effectively at the same time.  
Although it opened with a big bang with lots of fun music and dancing, I felt as if Act I was tedious to watch.  I think that the story’s pacing was not effectively manipulated to engage the audience.  The music became too overwhelming, borderline noisy.  They didn’t give the character enough time to connect with the audience because suddenly they were off dancing again.  Could that be the reason why the older couple in the front row left after about 15 minutes?  Hmmm…
I do applaud the numerous punchlines they incorporated in the story.  I couldn’t help laughing every time someone said something funny.  I was also amused at how they managed to get about 5-10 characters on stage at the same time and have each of them look busy and tell the story even without dialogue.  Boy, I bet that took a lot of planning and practice.

Everyone’s voices, I think, were superb and few stood out even more.  Arielle Jacobs (leading lady Nina) really nailed her vocals which made her an easy favorite of mine.  She had one of the best Broadway voices I’d ever heard.  Her style of singing was very sweet yet powerful.
I could say with certainty that I enjoyed Act II better.  There were more pauses, more emotional moments.  I could hear sniffles all around me somewhere towards the end and started to get teary-eyed myself.  There were no set changes only lighting to communicate the time of day and mood. 
“In the Heights” isn’t one of my favorites, but it’s definitely a winner in my book.  I give much props and respect to all the cast members and creators of the show. 
Favorite Song: “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”
Favorite Moment:  When Nina’s mom was scolding her and her dad.  Emotionally engaging, but hysterically funny.

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