We sat down and asked LTA veteran director Frank Shutts his thoughts, visions, and hopes for this summer’s production of the 2008 Tony-awarding musical In the Heights which opens on July 25 and runs through August 15. Frank was very excited about this production; we think you’ll see why…
I have waited five years to share this BREAKTHROUGH musical with the LTA audience! In the Heights first came to my attention in 2010 when I saw the original production on Broadway. I was so taken by it that I called home afterwards to discuss it but was so excited that I had to hang up and call back later. This is definitely one show that you will talk about when it is over and not just throw the program in the back seat of the car and drive home unmoved! This musical has as a lot of heart!
It is the story of a tight-knit community in northern Manhattan where the George Washington Bridge connects New Jersey and New York, commonly called Washington Heights. It is a neighborhood of transplanted and first- and second-generation immigrants trying to keep their treasured traditions while pursuing the American dream. It is Fiddler on a Roof and West Side Story for today’s audience in today’s vernacular and today’s sounds.
Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer of the pre-box office-breaking Hamilton which has its Broadway premier on July 13, and writer Quiara Alegría Hudes give In the Heights its authenticity. From Latin salsa to standard Broadway ballad, from standard English to a few Spanglish words and phrases peppered throughout, this is not your grandmother’s musical. And yet it is….
Abuela—Spanish for grandmother—Claudia, whose mother tore them from Cuba in hopes of finding work in New York, is one the main characters in the show. She is the voice of tradition; she is home for the lost souls who are trying to find themselves: Usnavi, a young bodega owner; Nina, a struggling freshman in college; and for others who are struggling to form their new identity.
I was very lucky to be able to cast this show. No area community theater has the upper hand when casting Hispanic roles, especially LTA. Fortunately for us, area universities and word-of-mouth did a great job, and we were able to cast the show correctly! It didn’t hurt that this show is a favorite among Latino performing arts groups.
I hope those unfamiliar with this show will take a chance and see what tomorrow’s musicals can be, should be, and must be.
Disfrute! (Enjoy!) - Frank Shutts