PREVIEW: In The Heights brings Nuyorican flavor to Central New York

Where: Crouse Hinds Theatre, Syracuse

Dates: Nov. 8-10

Article by: Kelundra Smith

Merengue, reggaeton, salsa and hip-hop beats fuse with the magic of Broadway in the four-time, 2008 Tony Award-winning musical “In The Heights,” touring the Central New York area in November.

The musical, conceived and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is about the Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican communities in the Washington Heights area of New York City. The show takes place over the course of three hot July days, and centers around an endearing cast of characters who embody the dreams, conflicts and hard work of their community, as they journey toward attaining the American dream.

Usnavi de la Vega, a free-styling, young bodega owner, lives in the Heights with his younger brother Sonny and his Abuela Claudia, a woman who has taken care of him since his parents died. Usnavi is in love with Vanessa who, like many of the play’s characters, including her best friend Nina, is caught between her love for the barrio and wanting something more.

Miranda, who grew up in Washington Heights, played Usnavi in the original Broadway production. He was inspired by the music, bodegas and cultural life of the area, and based Abuela Claudia off of his own grandmother.

North American Tour of "In the Heights." Photo by John Daughtry

The opening number “In The Heights” makes it clear that this is not Times Square or Madison Avenue, but a place uptown where Manhattan turns into the Bronx, and clave rhythms fill the air. The show combines hilarious moments with gossiping women in a beauty shop in the song “No Me Diga,” with moments reflecting on the immigrant experience in the song “Everything I Know.”

Even the traffic report sings in this Spanglish musical which opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in March 2008, and closed on January 9. A film version of the musical from Universal Pictures is in development.

To date “In The Heights” has toured in major cities around the United States, and also traveled to Puerto Rico in fall of 2010. The libretto was written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Quiara Alegria Hudes, with direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical direction by Alex Lacamore.

“In The Heights” will be at the Broome County Forum in Binghamton November 6, at the Crouse Hinds Theatre in Syracuse November 8-10 and at the Scranton Cultural Center in Scranton, Penn. November 11-13. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com

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