In the Heights
Group: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 539 N. Grand Blvd.
Dates: Through Nov. 22
Tickets: $26 to $68; 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Story: While the ethnic complexion has changed, life in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights goes on pretty much as it always has. Myriad businesses populate the streets where Dominican, Cuban and other Latino Americans are the latest wave of immigrants. Usnavi runs a small bodego, where he spends his time dreaming of returning to his late parents’ native Dominican Republic. He offers daily free coffee to Vanessa, a curvaceous senorita who works in the nearby beauty salon.
Usnavi also guides his high-spirited but unfocused cousin, Sonny, who hangs with street artists and has endless ideas for chasing the American dream. Abuela Claudia, the elderly lady who raised Usnavi, keeps an eye on everyone from her porch. On another corner, The Rosarios toil daily at their struggling business, Rosario’s Car Service, while their daughter Nina is the neighborhood’s star, gone to Stanford on scholarship.
Storm clouds are forming, though, as Nina returns with the news she’s lost her scholarship while juggling two jobs. Further aggravating her parents is the revelation that African-American Benny is in love with Nina, while more stress is heaped on the entire neighborhood when a power failure hits the city during a heat wave.
Highlights: Hailed as a glorious musical triumph when it debuted off-Broadway in 2007, In the Heights went on to win four Tony Awards in 2008 when it transferred to Broadway, where it continues to be performed. St. Louis is the second city (following an opening in Tampa) to host the touring production of the lively musical, which won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Music and Lyrics and Best Orchestration. The reasons for those particular awards are much in evidence in the touring show, which is at its best during the lively ensemble efforts.
Other Info: While the music of In the Heights, written by creator and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, crackles with energy and vibrancy, the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes is painfully clichéd and mind-numbingly mundane. Dialogue is predictable, but the musical numbers are magnificently performed.
Director Thomas Kail keeps the cast focused and maintains a slick pace, when the cloying ballads aren’t clogging up the system. The story has been told a hundred times before and nearly always better, but if you concentrate on the musical numbers you’ll have an entertaining evening.
Rating: A 3.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.