Tonawanda News

Night & Day

January 21, 2010

THEATER: 'In the Heights' opens at Shea's

One of the hottest Broadway musicals in recent years started its first national tour late last year and next week, the tour comes to Buffalo.

“In the Heights” is making a stop at Shea’s from Tuesday through Sunday. The musical won four Tony Awards in 2008 — Best Original Score, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations and most notably, Best Musical.

“In the Heights” is set in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights, which is a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood in the northern end of Manhattan. The characters are Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and the score heavily features salsa, soul, hip-hop and merengue music. But the world created in the musical isn’t an insular one, according to Lisa Grisanti, director of marketing and public relations at Shea’s.

“It really is a show that appeals to all ages and all ethnicities,” Grisanti said. “It’s a universal story.”

Grisanti spoke of the show’s universal themes — family, tradition, struggles — as the main draws. The story of “In the Heights” takes place over the course of three days, as the lives of neighbors and family members intertwine.

Concerns about the setting of “In the Heights” being a completely foreign world to (often upper-class and white) theater audiences obviously exist, but they’re quickly rebuffed by anyone familiar with the show.

“In the Heights” composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda acknowledges the show makes an effort to welcome audience members into an unfamiliar neighborhood. In a press Q&A; with Miranda, an interviewer mentioned that “In The Heights” honors the past with references to Duke Ellington and Cole Porter songs.

Asked if he saw such tunes as “important signposts for the audience,” Miranda said, “One of the things we try to do in the opening number is say, ‘Hey, you may be somewhere you’ve never been before, but it’s fine, you’re going to like it.’ ”

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