Musicals pretty much always make me wish I could sing, but more than anything, In The Heights made me want to sign up for dance classes. (Which I actually did yesterday. Thanks, Groupon!) The 2008 Tony Award winner for Best Musical embarked on its first touring production late last year and has set up shop at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus through Sunday. Tickets range from $20 for the upper balcony to $69 for the best orchestra seats.
Set in New York’s rough Washington Heights neighborhood, the story takes place over a few days in the lives of a group of residents, many of whom are dreaming about leaving behind the “barrio.” Most of the characters are of Dominican or Puerto Rican descent, which definitely influences the music and the dancing. You don’t often see rapping and salsa as part of more traditional Broadway musicals, so In The Heights was like an infusion of fresh air into an old genre. The plot itself is simple enough that you can predict the resolution after the first five minutes, but, of course, it’s all about the ride – the songs and the moves. The performers were all incredibly talented, with Kyle Beltran as orphaned bodega owner Usnavi, Rogelio Douglas Jr. as cultural outsider Benny and Arielle Jacobs as Stanford dropout Nina as the three biggest standouts.
If you love dance movies and are as excited about Step Up 3D as I am (seriously, have you seen the trailer? Moose is back!), you’ll like In The Heights, but the musical also offers compelling romance, humor and family drama.