Meet Julio Diaz, Assistant to Music Director/Spanish Diction Coach/Keyboard 2 Player for LTA's In the Heights.
In the Heights is the first musical that I was able to identify with since I came to the U.S. in 2001. I came from Peru where I was never exposed to musical theatre. I was able to learn about theatre at my time at George Mason University's School of Music and under the tutelage of my great friend Chris Tomasino, music director for In the Heights. It was so special for me to find a musical that uses familiar music genres that I grew up listening to in Peru. The characters and the story were also familiar to me. As a Latino man, I've been so used to the struggle of coming to the U.S. not knowing how to speak English, having to work two jobs while going to school, and being the first in my family to go to college. These characters depict the stories of many Latinos in the U.S. I've seen some other musicals in which Latinos are portrayed as a caricature, full of stereotypes. However, In the Heights depicts real people and their struggle trying to navigate this world and finding a place to call home.
The music is amazingly clever. I never thought one could use hip hop to advance a plot in a musical. It is very similar to classical opera using recitative to advance the plot. They are both techniques of spoken rhythm and it's an art that's getting accepted more in musical theatre tradition. The earliest musical I've seen with something similar to this was Music Man with Dr. Harold Hill and it's rhythmic melodic speeches. In the Heights also introduces new music genres such as Bachata, from the Dominican Republic, and Salsa, which originated in New York City by Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrants. It's so refreshing to find a musical that will use Latino music to depict the correct environment where the story takes place rather than to identify that a character is Latino. For me, In the Heights is the most sincere representation of the Latino community and it offers an opportunity to add a group of talented Latino actors and musicians to our area.