In The Heights – Flirtatious Folks, Fireworks, and Faith

14 03 2012

Lin-Manuel Miranda has composed, written and paved the way for a heck of  a moving tale of NYC, Immigrant struggle, and the importance of making tough choices in life.  The In The Heights tour premiered in Dallas last night to a heartfelt standing ovation from an always giving Winspear Opera House audience.  Click through for some photos from the evening and my full review of the Tony Award winning Broadway hit.

“Paciencia y Fe” (Patience and Faith) a message that sums up the struggle that is showcased in this 2-act production of a Dominican-American neighborhood in Washington Heights, NYC.   First there were Irish people, then Jews, Greeks, the before-mentioned Dominicans , and the now typical NYC melting pot of folks live in the northern most parts of Manhattan.   The Washington Heights area was named for the famous military Fort Washington where the US fought off the redcoats.  The sports history of the area is also rich from the Yankees (then the Highlanders) first starting out on the old  “Hilltop Park”.  Those same pinstripes, the cross town Mets, the baseball Giants, The 4-time Super Bowl champion football Giants, and those pesky Jets in green all played at the Polo Grounds in Washington Heights off West 155th and 8th.  Actor Laurence Fishburne , Yankee great Lou Gehrig, The FED’s former main man Alan Greenspan, a fella named Kissinger, the man who brought us Spider-man  Stan Lee, that darn Alex A-Rod Rodriguez, the voice of the dodgers Vin Scully, the aforementioned Lin-Manuel Miranda, and even Rod Carew were all Washington Heights born, raised and/or current residents.  In other words this play is the perfect look into the rich immigrant history of our most famous city.

Thus it seemed most fitting that Z.O.A.S. would highlight the opening night of the show with a beautiful Mural in its honor.

Z.O.A.S Creative & Healing Arts provides creative, educational and cultural opportunities that allow all children, teens, and adults to create compelling resources that demonstrate the advancement of creativity, innovation, imagination, environmental and global awareness, diversity and growth, through literary and visual arts, film, music, and photography.”

The Fort Worth based Non-profit got to hang out with the AT&T Performing Arts President Mark Weinstein before finishing the final touches on the mural.  The Co-Founders Jo Dufo and Michael Rodriguez help promote their positive virtues on a slew of youngsters and adults across the globe.   In honor of, In The Heights, the group began and finished the mural in just 3 hours.

The team’s epic pace mirrored that of the plays break-neck rapping and songs.  From the opening rap by Usnavi thru the rest of the introductions the pace of the play is upbeat and erratic.  We’re introduced to a community built on strong respect for their elders and a hope-filled/dreamy composure.  The dueling leading ladies bring the first real angst as we witness Nina and Vanessa’s issues with dropping out of school and money difficulties.  The Rosario family (Nina and her parents) give a solid backbone while Usnavi’s “Abuela” is the real heart of the community.

Abuela Claudia is a role that could be left behind or lack a power to it.  But Lin Manuel obviously respected and loved his Abuela (though as you’ll see, she wasn’t his real Grandmother).  Her powerful solo was the real highlight of the play.  She gave the reality check, history lesson, and motivation for the community and honestly to us the audience.

Money issues run amok in this community and its a lucky lotto ticket that changes the focus and scope of where this group is headed.  But like all quality plays tragedy strikes sooner rather then later.  Death is subject that is addressed beautifully and poignantly.  Candle light becomes more then a reminder it becomes a survival necessity.  The second act is hugely impacted by a power outage, thus the need for candle light.  The power outage in the second act gives a new dynamic to the play, the importance of light to the stage.  When the stage becomes engulfed in blackness the play takes a new twist and its those fireworks that illuminate more then just the night’s sky.

The elements though that stood out the most were the dance elements and the character of Benny.  To showcase the importance of dance (in particular tango dancing) in the play the Winspear had tango dancing happening prior to the show.

The play’s use of music and dance to give us the flirtatious elements as well as the dramatic changes is well done.

The character that most stood out over Abuela and Usnavi was the wild card that is Benny.  He comes across as the most egotistical of characters, but Nina brings out the true man in Benny.  His arc takes the most bold leaps and in the end his future is the most up-in-the-air.  We see him go from joker style secondary figure into leading man, in the Rosario family sequences, showcasing the broad scope of the entire play. In the end though it just takes a little Patience and Faith to fulfill your goals.

Just like it takes a little paint, patience and faith to go from this…

To the complete, fulfilled and finished project.

Once again a shout out to the lovely folks at Z.O.A.S., like them on Facebook.

Find more info on tickets to the ATT PAC’s run of In The Height by clicking, here.

And here is more info on In The Heights.

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