Friday, May 31, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW Scaling THE HEIGHTS at SpeakEasy By Beverly Creasey

First, let’s get the word out. IN THE HEIGHTS, the Tony Award winning musical (produced by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the BCA) has been extended AGAIN, through June 30th. Composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his valentine to Washington Heights as a sophomore at Wesleyan University. From there it picked up a book writer, Queria Alegria Hudes, a musical format and a whole lot of awards. This may be the successor to RENT in the appeal department. The performers are, many of them, still students at Boston Conservatory (where director Paul Daigneault teaches) and the feel of the show is definitely young and hip (hop).

IN THE HEIGHTS reminds me of Elmer Rice’s STREET SCENE, sprinkled with a little WEST SIDE STORY, a bit of LES MIZ and a hint of O Henry’s GIFT OF THE MAGI. Themes run through the musical instead of a plot, with a couple of love stories as a backdrop but mostly IN THE HEIGHTS is about finding community and a place to call ‘home.’

The music mixes rap (clever rhymes like “hypothetical” and a “set of goals”) with pop, jazz and a Latin beat. Diego Klock-Perez (as composer Miranda’s alter ego) is a juggernaut as the main character, with standout help from Jorge Barranco, Jared Dixon, Santina Umbach, Alessandra Valea and the whole remarkable, high energy cast. For me, Larry Sousa’s choreography made the show. The dancers fly through the sky, landing in spectacular splits like the Nicholas Brothers. They grab a funky beat, shake it out, tie it to a basketball move, jerk its tail inside out and walk it en masse, Evita-style. What else can I say? The dancing left me completely wowed.