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Though commonly referred to as the musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda before Hamilton, In the Heights is strong enough to have its own identity.
The winner of four Tony awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score, In the Heights enjoyed tremendous adulation, until its ‘sibling’ took all the spotlight. Now In the Heights is reemerging from the shadows and is determined to reclaim its rightful place in the hearts of theatergoers and stand alone on its own good merits.
Set in the largely Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights, in New York City; In the Heights follows Usnavi (Justin Gregory Lopez) and three generations community members, while chasing his dream of returning back to the Dominican Republic. They all yearn for a better life somewhere.
The lead character is Usnavi, an orphan immigrant, left to run the families business (a bodega). Usnavi also serves as the show’s narrator, so is on stage for a majority of the time. Lopez considers it his most demanding role, both emotionally and physically, but gladly embraces the opportunity. “I’m ready for it,” he said.
The high-paced energy of Hamilton was originated in In the Heights with the hip-hop genre being the central method used in the storytelling. The lyrics cover a lot of material, and are carefully written to be both informative and entertaining. “You are able to cover so much ground in less time. I liken it to the montage sequences in a movie or television show,” said Lopez.
When Lopez began pursuing a career in theatre, he never expected that he would be rapping on stage, but has since prepared himself. “When in school you do not learn how to rap and to see it come to the forefront is a positive. It is very economical with the time that is saved,” he said.
Beyond the music though, Lopez emphasizes the story that appeals to everyone, no matter their musical tastes or nationality. “Lin-Manuel is a storyteller, this show that anyone can relate too. It’s a family story that is for everybody,” he said.
The energy of the lyrics is extended to the dance as Lopez promises a steady stream of high energy dance numbers, particularly in the first act, which will inspire the audience to want to dance in the aisles.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.