Reviewed by Sarah Kuras
In the Heights, a musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes, made its way to The Forum last Sunday (Nov. 6) for two performances in Binghamton after three award-winning years on Broadway. The musical, presented by the Broadway Theatre League, traces the trials and tribulations one summer of people living in Manhattan’s Washington Heights and reflects all the characters’ hope for a chance to start a better life.
Things turn upside down when Nina (Virginia Cavaliere), the prodigy of el Barrio, returns home from her first year of college defeated but hopeful; the neighborhood grandmother Abuela Claudia (Christina Aranda) wins $96,000 in the lottery and decides to give it to her grandchildren, Usnavi (Perry Young) and Sonny (Robert Ramirez), and the power goes out for a few days around the Fourth of July. The characters’ lives are interdependent, so as soon as one issue arises, the entire community is affected. The plot takes many twists and turns to hit the funny bone and pull at the heart strings. The characters come from different backgrounds but with universally relatable issues, so many lines and scenarios hit home across cultures. Throughout the play, questions of family obligation, race, class and privilege act as a common thread.
The cast fabulously portrayed their characters. From hopefulness to despair to falling in love, the cast made sure you understood their emotions. Young’s Usnavi was a hopeful, lovestruck dreamer and businessman. Cavaliere was convincing as the jaded homecomer, Nina, and I was blown away by Aranda’s powerful portrayal of Abuela Claudia during “Paciencia y Fe” (“Patience and Faith”), shouting to the heavens about the extreme heat and then surprising the audience when she revealed she had the winning lottery ticket.
The music itself reflects the backgrounds of the characters, featuring Latin and hip-hop sensibilities, and a mix of Spanish and English. The dancing also is influenced by different Latin styles and hip-hop moves. The pit orchestra, while small, was talented. Sometimes, however, the balance between the singers and the orchestra made it difficult to hear the words. The set was realistic, depicting worn storefronts north of Harlem, complete with metal grates, fire escapes, front stoops and the George Washington Bridge as the backdrop.
I had not been to the renovated Forum until this performance, and I appreciated the updates I saw. I have seen many a performance at the theater over the years and had developed a level of comfort there, but the new paint scheme and new seats were a welcome change.
While the theater seemed appropriately full, I would definitely like to see more of my peers out at performances in the community. I was happy to find that student rush tickets were available before the performance for $27 with a student ID.
Other Broadway shows that will make their way to Binghamton this season are Stomp (Feb. 14 and 15), Cats (March 11), Young Frankenstein (April 15), and South Pacific (May 9 and 10). For more information and to order tickets, visit the Broadway Binghamton website.