Cooked up by actor-writer Lin-Manuel Miranda when he was a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the show went through many revisions before it was commercially produced Off-Broadway in 2007 — with Miranda himself in the lead role of a charming bodega owner, Usnavi.
(Spoiler alert! We can now give away a major joke in the show. Usnavi's late parents named him after a passing ship. On the side of the vessel, the following was painted: U.S. NAVY. The revelation comes in a song full of hope, remembrance, sorrow and humor, four elements that spice the romantic musical comedy.)
Following further refinements to the script and score, the producers moved the show to Broadway, where it opened March 9, 2008. When it closes, the production will have played 29 previews and 1,185 regular performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Despite its rangy score that includes rap, hip-hop, salsa, merengue and more, the musical sought to honor traditional musicals like Fiddler on the Roof, painting a portrait of a community that is experiencing internal growing pains while the outside world closes in. Observers have noted that the title opening number establishes the place, people, musical flavor and expectations of the show as efficiently as any major title of musicals of the past 50 years. As "Tradition" was Fiddler's vivid introduction, so was the title song of In the Heights.
Miranda, who won the Tony for Best Score for the show, was also nominated as Best Actor in a Musical. He rejoined the cast on Dec. 25 for the final two weeks of the run. His kinetic Usnavi is a Dominican bodega owner who guides us through a couple of days in the life of friends, family and lovers in the Latino-populated northern Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights.
In the Heights has a libretto by Pulitzer Prize finalist Quiara Alegría Hudes (Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue), whose heritage is Puerto Rican and Jewish.
Thomas Kail (Lombardi) directs, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Kail, Hudes and Blankenbuehler were nominated for Tonys for their work; Blankenbuehler won. The musical is also the winner of 2008 Tonys for Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman). A Broadway cast album of the musical preserves the score of In the Heights.
A Universal film version of the musical is in development, to feature Miranda in the role that he created. Miranda told Playbill.com recently that shooting is expected to begin in the summer. Miranda is one of the creators of the new musical Bring It On, getting its world premiere Jan. 15 in Atlanta.
Read Playbill.com's fall 2010 interview with Miranda on the topic of taking the show to Puerto Rico. In the Heights began previews on Broadway Feb. 14, 2008. The musical recouped its $10 million investment in ten months.
The cast currently features Arielle Jacobs, Andréa Burns, Marcy Harriell, Priscilla Lopez, Olga Merediz, Rick Négron, Courtney Reed, Christoper Jackson, Tony Chiroldes and Seth Stewart with Sharona D'Ornellas, Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Rubén Flores, Marcus Paul James, Jennifer Locke, Doreen Montalvo, Noah Rivera, Eliseo Román, Gabrielle Ruiz, Marcos Santana, Rickey Tripp, Willis White, Michael Balderrama, Blanca Camacho, Allison Thomas Lee, Alejandra Reyes, Alicia Taylor Tomasko and Daniel J. Watts.
In the Heights is produced by Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller, Jill Furman Willis, Sander Jacobs, Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Peter Fine and Sonny Everett/Mike Skipper with associate producers Ruth Hendel and Harold Newman.
For more information, visit www.intheheightsthemusical.com.