In the Heights [Original Broadway Cast Recording]

by: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Lin-Manuel Miranda began work on his musical In the Heights when he was just a sophomore in college, but there is as much maturity and originality in his music and lyrics as is found in the musicals of more seasoned Broadway veterans. The story of two days in a Washington Heights Latino neighborhood doesn't have a vastly compelling plot or action, but the themes of immigrant and second-generation immigrant families, the "American dream," and neighborhood transition/urban gentrification ring true, and the way it is all put together and performed with conviction by the cast holds attention. Miranda uses current salsa, merengue, and hip-hop sounds combined with more traditional show tune forms in a way that can appeal to fans of those genres, while exciting regular musical theater fans with rhythms and sounds not usually encountered in the stage context. It could be compared with West Side Story or Jesus Christ Superstar for breaking away from the usual, but there is still a lot in it that reflects trends in Broadway musicals from the previous 25 years or so. Most of the story is presented through the music. Songs are structured to carry the story forward and not much is lost in just hearing this cast recording. There aren't many numbers that one would think of as old-fashioned "show tunes" that could hold their own when performed out of context. "Pacienca y Fe" and the duet at the beginning of the second act are about the only ones that could work separate from the play. "Breathe," the first solo after the opening, expository ensemble, is very Sondheim-esque in its waves of climaxes and internalizations. Miranda is adept at maintaining a consistency of musical style for each character and is able to seamlessly overlap and blend those styles -- not to mention the melodies from various solos and duets -- into the ensemble numbers. He also stars as the central character of the play, another way in which he shows his talents to be equal to those with greater experience. (The only fear is that he won't be able to grow beyond this one musical.) But no one stands out in this cast as either better or worse than any other member. They all are excellent in terms of voice, intonation, energy, and commitment. In the Heights is very satisfying from a musical standpoint and deserving of the numerous Tony and other awards it received.

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.