Review by Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus
9 May 2008
"In the Heights," which was transported from a little off-Broadway theater to the big time is soaring with its original cast largely in tact, and you can expect to see it win a bunch of Tonys this season. This exhilarating hit musical has made the precarious transition more effortlessly than the gentrification of the neighborhood it portrays.
In a perfect blend of ethnic groups, musical genres, and lovable characters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, its creator and star, shows us again what a real modern American musical should be. From the title song¹s opening rap to the strong ballads, to the grand finale, we cheer for the people of this Hispanic immigrant neighborhood because their needs are our needs, their dreams are our dreams, and their life songs are our life songs.
The sets, more in proportion to the larger stage, give grander detail to the backdrop of the George Washington Bridge and the apartments above the stores. In addition, the show is 30 minutes longer to accommodate the expansion of three of the roles, and while such a change can sometimes ruin the balance of the original, Miranda's expert rewriting has given greater depth to the story and the characters.
The Piragua Guy, selling his brightly colored, sweetly flavored ice was a walk-on in the original, but is now a person with his own story and song; Usnavi, played by Miranda, has a real romance with Vanessa, the beautiful young hairdresser who wants to move downtown; and Carla, the shop's owner, gets to move further uptown to something bigger and better.
Still central is the love story between the Stanford University dropout, Nina (Mandy Gonzalez), her boyfriend Benny (Christopher Jackson), and the struggles with Nina's parents who run the local livery cab shop. Bringing down the house, however, is Olga Merediz as Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood grandma who sings the show-stopper, "Paciencia y Fe" ("Patience and Faith").
There is no more joyful musical to see this season on Broadway than "In the Heights." You'll leave the theater flying.
(Barbara Mehlman and Geri Manus)
CHARLES ISHERWOOD for NEW YORK TIMES says, "Moves uptown with its considerable assets confidently in place....Its fundamental deficiencies are also along for the ride, unfortunately."
JOE DZIEMIANOWICZ for NEW YORK DAILY NEWS says, "What it lacks in story and believability it makes up for in a vibrant rap- and salsa-flavored score, spirited dances and great-looking design."
CLIVE BARNES for NEW YORK POST says, "There is no real plot, no true drama. Everyone is as cute as a litter of kittens. Without any lows, just how high can these sanitized "Heights" climb?"
MICHAEL SOMMERS for STAR-LEDGER says, "A delicious score -- offering salsa, mambo and other Latino pop styles -- plenty of dynamite dancing and a good-hearted story regarding everyday people fuse into an exuberant entertainment." & "...delivers a festive time that plenty of people will enjoy."
ELYSA GARDNER for USA TODAY says, "Not a great musical. But it's about as impossible to dislike as an adorable puppy."
ERIC GRODE for NEW YORK SUN says, "It doesn't always seem to know where it's going or why, but it makes the path look awfully tempting." & "Deeply flawed and deeply pleasurable."
JOHN SIMON for BLOOMBERG says, "Unreal, unbelievable? Sure enough. But I for one wouldn't sneeze at 135 minutes of lovable lies. "
JACQUES LE SOURD for JOURNAL NEWS say, "Already looking a bit shopworn. The show still has the feel of someone (presumably Lin-Manuel Miranda) trying desperately to put everything but the kitchen sink into it because it is his one big chance. Still, "In the Heights" is full of old-fashioned warmth and show business schmaltz."
ROBERT FELDBERG for THE RECORD says, "Is even more joyous and high-spirited than it was when it debuted off-Broadway a year ago."
MICHAEL KUCHWARA for ASSOCIATED PRESS says, "Miranda's music and Blankenbuehler's dances are never offstage for too long. Taken together with that talented cast, they make "In the Heights" a destination well-worth traveling to."
FRANK SCHECK for HOLLYWOOD REPORTER says, "The show is a joyfully exuberant and moving experience that should have no trouble thriving once word-of-mouth kicks in."
DAVID ROONEY for VARIETY says, "Depth of feeling, together with the wit of Miranda's lyrics, the playful dexterity of his rhymes, his dynamic score and a bunch of truly winning performances, make the show an uncalculated charmer."