Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It Won't Be Long Now

I try to refrain from writing about Broadway offerings, since I really want this blog to reflect all the talent that hasn't yet hit the Great White Way (and there's so much of it out there, I could go forever without even mentioning a Broadway show). And especially in light of some original new musicals closing on Broadway, I think it's becoming more and more apparent that success doesn't always need to be tied to a huge theater or expensive production. Still, I want this blog to be about the musical theatre that can be electric, all-encompassing, and I while I've had those moments in smaller venues lately, last night I was reminded that I could feel that way on a grander scale as well.

Lin Manuel Miranda is well on his way to being a musical theatre hit maker, making a huge Broadway debut with In The Heights and quickly moving onto other jobs working on the current revival of West Side Story and a musical adaptation of Bring It On. I had the pleasure of seeing In The Heights in one of its first previews and it's been my go-to show when I've had friends or family in town. It's been an instant crowd pleaser, and I've always been amazed at how it's resonated with so many different audiences, especially my friends who aren't especially interested in musicals.

Last night, I revisited the show when I got tickets for a dear friend's birthday, and I found myself excited to not only experience the show again but to share it with my friend as well. And upon another viewing, I was able to truly appreciate the intricacies of Miranda's well-crafted lyrics. Having seen the original cast, I thought it would be difficult to recreate the chemistry and energy of those characters, but the material holds up well with new actors and takes on new meaning with fresh faces. Though I understand criticisms of the show's lacking book and surprisingly traditional plot lines, watching the show last night really made me realize how the show is about Miranda's music and showcasing the world and characters he so skillfully whittles with words.

The precision of the rhymes manage to avoid cliche, never seeming cheesy but always seeming accessible. While some may argue that the subject matter deserves a vision that is more edgy, I find the buoyancy of every song important to immerse the audience in unfamiliar territory. It's easy to say the characters fit general archetypes, but the details with which they express themselves in song shows how music truly helps transcend language barriers -- take for instance how, regardless of how my mom kept asking why the abuela character kept singing about "color" (which was actually "calor"), she understood very clearly the complex theme of immigrating and building a home in unfamiliar territory.

I felt a sense of pride coming out of the show, and I have to admit, though I HATE talkers in the theater, I love the way people can't help but respectfully 'ooh' and 'ahh' at choice parts. These are characters and songs that people relate to enough to want to interact with them -- and it never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps the best part was being able to share the night with my friend who said herself that it gave her a new appreciation of being a New Yorker, which, while not necessarily a ringing endorsement for the realism of the piece, is a sign that musical theatre continues to succeed in being transformative on the stage.

Anyway, for sticking with me through this gush-fest, I leave you with some videos of Lin Manuel Miranda genius: In The Heights' Tony performance of "96,000," Lin Manuel Miranda's Tony acceptance speech, and his recent Alexander Hamilton rap at the White House. Also, try to see Lin doing his thing when he returns to "The Heights" fort he last two weeks of the run, starting Christmas Day!

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