PURE AND SIMPLE
In The Heights
Starlight Theatre Association
Last night I had the exciting experience that every musical theatre lover longs for! I went to Starlight Theatre with no real knowledge of the show. I knew it had won some Tonys and some Drama Desk awards and even a Grammy for best cast recording. But, I had not seen a step, heard a note or even knew the storyline of "In the Heights".
What unfolded in front of me was three days in the lives of characters from the New York city neighborhood of Washington Heights. The setting was as gritty as we Midwesterners picture the city that never sleeps, but it was also an ever-changing, flexible "transformer" that was at once several city blocks, a hip nightclub and the intimate interior of an upper story flat. The setting, the contemporary feel, and even the under-class heroes evoked shows like "Rent" but never seemed to be stealing from the same playbook.
I am not ashamed to admit that the show had a deeper impact me on than I have felt with even the best touring show. Unlike some of those shows I did not leave humming a song, I did not go in looking forward to how they were going to freshen up an old favorite. Instead I felt a true cathartic moment because I became involved in the lives of these characters. Without going into too much detail there is a moment in this show that had me completely choked up and moved almost to the point of tears. Musical theatre had brought me a pure emotional reaction, had entertained me and transported me from my seat in Kansas City to a place thousands of miles away. A pure, simple, and gorgeous theatrical experience!
This connection I made to the characters was aided by the fact that the show is so very contemporary. The characters evoke people you know and the way the characters talk (with a mix of English, Spanish, and pop culture references) is current. The music is also very modern as it delves into a lot of classic salsa and other Latin music forms but also includes plenty of rap, heavily influenced by old school hip-hop, the cadences of Eminem and the story telling of Jay Z.
Of note is something that often goes unnoticed by the casual ticket buyer: the choreography. The dancing was all over the map stylistically, but was breathtaking in every instance. Choreography is only as good as the dancers performing it and this beautiful and athletic cast deserves recognition as well!
"In the Heights" runs at Starlight Theatre June 5-10 with tickets available starting at $10. Check out http://www.kcstarlight.com/ or call 816-363-7827.