A Broadway musical about heart and “familia”
By Alejandra Enciso Guzmán for SDFP
The San Diego Repertory Theater opens its thirty-eighth season with the award winning musical In the Heights.
Sam Woodhouse, San Diego Rep co-founder and artistic director, provided insight into the first resident production of the musical in San Diego:
“There are several factors here. One is the partnership with the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), the ‘fame’ high school of San Diego that allows us to do these big giant musicals in the summer. They bring us an orchestra of thirteen musicians and a bunch of actor/dancers, all terrific.”
“In The Heights is this wonderful collision and marriage of a very 21st century, modern American immigrant story, filled with all those desires and longings and dreams and quests that every immigrant community has, in the cocoon of an old fashioned Broadway musical” added Woodhouse.
In the Heights has all the ingredients indeed. It is a Tony Award® for Best Musical, with a book by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award® nominee Quiara Alegría Hudes. It was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda who also won the Tony in 2008 for Best Music and Lyrics. Andy Blankenbuehler won for Best Choreography, and Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman won for Best Orchestrations. Also, the original cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award® for Best Musical Show Album. Something was done right…
“The music is hip hop, salsa, rap, pop, merengue, a little cumbia. It is very Caribbean, very contemporary and accessible. Very hip in the contemporary sense. And yet, it is also about home and family, and dreams and love. The things that Broadway musicals are about” explained Sam.
The musical is set in a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights, with immigrants from all over Latin America. These immigrants face a day to day decision whether to keep on with traditions or to leave them behind. This decision is especially pressing with the new generations born in the US and being raised in Latino households. “It makes it very powerful emotionally, no matter what ethnicity you are. La casa, la familia y el corazón. (The house, the family and the heart).”
Washington Heights represents the American Dream. If you come here and work hard enough you can make it. You can change your life and change the life of your children. Your ethnicity does not matter. One of the main characters ‘Nina’ (played by Chelsea Diggs-Smith) is the first member of her family –and the neighborhood- to go to college. Stanford no less. “It’s a big deal. Not just in that community but here in San Diego, people can relate. At least 50% of the people living in San Diego are not from here,”Woodhouse explained.
Jai Rodriguez (Queer eye for the straight guy, Malibu Country) is leading the San Diego cast as ‘Usnavi’, along with other well-known names such as award-winning choreographer, Javier Velasco who staged the dancing. Mauricio Mendoza plays ‘Kevin Rosario’ and Spencer Smith has the role of ‘Graffiti Pete.’
This production is going to be a very interesting exercise. “The core of the cast is professional adult actors, surrounded by a lot of young people from SCPA, which is an incredibly beneficial partnership for both. The kids get an extraordinary kind of summer experience, because they are working with ten professionals. They jump really high! And they are not afraid of the powerful heartfelt emotions that this story calls for.”
After the engagement of In the Heights, Sam Woodhouse will be working on directing another play. “A kinky, sexy comedy about power and sexual politics” due to start in the fall.
In the Heights will be playing at the Lyceum Theatre from August 4th thru the 25th. Tickets range $35-$62. Students $18. Discounts for seniors & military.
For more information regarding times and surrounding events. Please visit www.SDREP.ORG
Alejandra Enciso Guzmán is an arts consultant and reporter in both Tijuana and San Diego. @Riselah / @Riselaheng