Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Listening to In the Heights

With the temperature in the mid-90s, I figure this is the perfect time to send out some love to the Broadway cast recording of In the Heights.

I just finished listening to the two-disc cd, and it has a lot of what I enjoyed about the show: the energy, the humor, the spirit, the mixture of salsa, hip-hop and pop music, the very moving stories of immigrants in a Latino neighborhood at the very top of Manhattan. This is still my pick for the best musical of the year. Of all the musicals I saw this year, it's the one I most want to see a second time.

When I watched In the Heights, I loved the big ensemble numbers, like the opening song, "In the Heights,'' along with "96,000,'' where everyone in the neighborhood fantasizes about what they'd do with the money from a winning lottery ticket, and "Carnaval del Barrio." Aided by Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography, they were so much fun and thrilling to watch.

On stage, I really enjoyed Lin-Manuel Miranda's rapping as Dominican bodega owner Usnavi. (Miranda composed the music and lyrics). But on the cd, there is a certain sameness to it after awhile. A little bit goes a long way. There's a lot of yo, yo, yo if you know what I mean. I still like the songs, but I just think I like watching them better than listening to them on their own.

One of my favorite songs is "Pacienca Y Fe," sung by Olga Merediz, who plays the neighborhood matriarch, Abuela Claudia. It's a beautiful song in which she reminisces about her childhood in Havana, about coming to New York with her mother and their struggle to make a life in America. And I loved Mandy Gonzalez, who plays Nina, the neighborhood's bright hope, in "Breathe," where she sings about returning home after a disappointing year in college.

While the rapping is fun, the songs I like the best on the cast recording, the ones that stick with me, are the slower ones. They're the songs that tell me something about the characters - where they grew up, what their lives are like, their dreams. I love immigrant stories, and while In the Heights may not be the most profound, it's got a lot of heart.


Joseph Gomez said...

I really enjoy this CD. Of course, we don't get to see the elictrifying dance numbers, or the beautifully realized unit set, or the ominous lighting... but what still is here is fantastic. Plus Mandy's voice soars on every song she's in. And a nice little surprise for me was Carlos Gomez's performance on "Inutil." On the disc, it's so tender and vulnerable and really shines a light on his character. Well done.

Esther said...

Oh wow, I totally agree with you about Mandy's voice soaring. She sounds wonderful on the cd! And I agree with you about "Intuil." I like the songs that tell you a little something about the characters: their stories, their dreams. I think they're the best-written songs, too.