REVIEW: Beck Center’s “In The Heights”
The Beck Center’s performance “In The Heights” was vibrant, and not just because of the set’s bright backlighting and graffiti painted across the large city street set. What really brought a colorful touch to the show were the wild choreography and mix of music, which tangled together the most upbeat forms of Latin jazz, hip hop and rap.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (famous for creating the immensely successful Broadway show “Hamilton”), “In The Heights” lived up to the writer’s unique, catchy scores he’s known for. A pit band performed at the back of the stage while singers performed in the front. At times, the pit overpowered certain songs, especially during unheard rapped lyrics, but by the end of the show volume levels were in control.
The show hit the ground running with the song “In The Heights,” which featured a rapping Usnavi (Ellis C. Dawson III) and the rest of the cast. Here, everyone first showed their dancing skills with synchronized moves around the stage.
The entire performance was good, enjoyable fun, but when the show tried to dig a bit deeper beneath the singing and dancing, it didn’t accomplish as much.
“In The Heights” was rooted in the daily lives of community members in a rough New York City neighborhood. Love stories ran parallel to work stories, and family conflict connected to economic hardships.
These hardships involved a burglary, difficulties in paying for college education and deaths of loved ones. However, there was an easy sense of resolution at the end of the play, one that was not only rushed and unrealistic, but also a bit cheesy.
The real world isn’t as family-friendly as the world in “In The Heights.” Vandalizing graffiti artists aren’t necessarily celebrated members of the community; romance isn’t constantly blossoming in the midst of hardship.
When star-crossed lovers Benny (Malik Victorian) and Nina (Livvy Marcus) pursued one another, the conflict behind why they weren’t able to date was confusing at first; Nina’s parents wanted her to attend college instead of staying at home, but in the end, the teenage couple decided that they would attempt a long-distance relationship. Meanwhile, Usnavi’s chase after Vanessa (Christiana Perrault) flip-flops at the end, when Vanessa decides to stay in the neighborhood she had, until then, been trying to escape, to be with him.
Between scenes, lovers made out against buildings and in the middle of the street, or danced across the stage. The view of this neighborhood was romanticized, but it was exciting, sexy and kept the plot moving when otherwise there’d be less going on.
While the play lacked a deep meaning beyond the importance of community, it was certainly fun to watch, and wrapped up nicely with a happy ending.
Happy endings are satisfying, and the Beck Center’s production of “In The Heights” was a satisfying performance.