In The Heights
BY Mike Diamond
April 14 2008 12:00 AM ET
Heights is a mainly Latino neighborhood in the upper reaches
of Manhattan, so far up along the island’s West Side
that it seems to exist in another borough altogether.
In the Heights, which takes place one hot and
steamy July 4th, attempts to bring to life the stories of El
Barrio’s residents, their struggles, and their
triumphs. What it mainly succeeds in bringing to life
is a throbbing headache.
Set on a single
street corner, the George Washington Bridge looming
stoically in the background, Heights trots out
an assortment of types: the mom-and-pop business owners
(Carlos Gomez and Priscilla Lopez), the sweet old lady
Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz, who has
an excellent singing voice, but every one of her
overwrought line readings made me cringe). The main
figure in the story is bodega owner
Usnavy, portrayed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who conceived
of In the Heights and also wrote the music and
lyrics. Usnavy is likeable, if a bit of a cipher. He seems,
in the midst of all the passions and mild angst
swirling around him, to exist on an entirely different
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