I love watching Broadway musicals because they are usually very innovative and offer a different perspective to life.
IN THE HEIGHTS tells the story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythmof three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. (Source: www.intheheightsthemusical.com)
In The Heights got mixed reviews from theater lovers. As for me, here's my take on it:
What I like about IN THE HEIGHTS:
1. New Theater Actors to Watch Out For
It is exciting to watch plays in Manila these days because new talented actors are appearing onstage with every new production.
In In The Heights, K-La made her debut as the lead female role, Nina . I was surprised by her powerful voice; it was quite enjoyable to listen to her sing. This new MYX VJ has a bright future in theater, and we will be there to watch her success on stage.
This was also Jackie Lou Blanco's first full-length English musical. I think she was perfect for the role of Camila, Nina's mom. I personally liked her solo "Enough", which I think most young families can relate to. :)
We also enjoyed Bibo Reyes' funny, hip hop-dancing character, Sonny. In The Heights is also Bibo's first foray into professional theater. He is a product of the country's premier college musical theater -- Ateneo Blue Repertory.
2. Broadway Musical meets RAP, HIP HOP, SALSA, MERENGUE and SOUL MUSIC :)
Nyoy Volante was great to watch in this staging of In The Heights. We usually look forward to his performances, especially in roles where he sings and dances (like in HAIRSPRAY). This time, he was rapping his way to the audience's hearts. He made it look cool and easy. It was also a plus that we could understand his words clearly. :)
I personally loved the production of "96,000", "No me Diga", "Piragua" and my favorite "Carnaval del Barrio". It's quite rare to see rap, hip hop, salsa, merengue and soul music thrown together in one Broadway musical.
3. A better Ima Castro
I loved Ima Castro as Vanessa in this play versus her Manila theater debut as Aida. Here, she was better, more relaxed and noticeably sexier. Her voice was still dynamic and powerful. I liked her girl power performance "No Me Diga", together with her friends Daniella and Carla.
What I don't like about IN THE HEIGHTS:
1. Mismatched Match-ups
Sadly, there was no chemistry between the love teams of Benny (Felix Rivera) and Nina (K-La Rivera), and Usnavi (Nyoy Volante) and Vanessa (Ima Castro).
We just couldn't feel the love and affection; it was obvious that they were just acting it out. The kisses felt fake and the audiences were not drawn in to their love stories.
2. More Like a Concert
After the play ended, I had this feeling that I had just watched an awesome Rap-Hip Hop-Soul Music Concert instead of a theatrical piece that I hoped would engage me in the story, struggles and journey of the characters.
I actually had more fun watching Act I of the show versus Act II, which felt a bit anti-climactic.
With that, I would still recommend watching it because you have to see and hear the beautiful integration of rapping and hip hop dancing in this Broadway musical. You also shouldn't miss Calvin Millado and Felix Rivera's strong performances, which are always pleasant to watch. Lastly, you've got to see K-La's theatrical debut for yourself! :)
Live an Awesome Life,
Full Disclosure: We got complimentary media passes as friends of musical theater in Manila. :)
P.S. Don't miss IN THE HEIGHTS, which is staging its final weekend performances:
Sept. 16 Friday 8pm: Ticketworld 891-9999
Sept. 17 Saturday 2pm and 8pm: Bel Pacheco - 0915 - 621-6512
Sept. 18 Sunday 3pm: Theody Demaisip - www.ticketsource.biz
Sept. 18 Sunday 8pm: Calvin Millado - 0917 - 529 - 0467 (last show)
Ticket Prices: Orchestra Center (P1,700), Orchestra Side (P1,600),
Loge Center (P1,300), Loge side (P800), and Balcony (P700)
Venue: Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City, Ayala corner Buendia.