A fiesta for "In the Heights" at the United Palace
Whew. A week after "In the Heights: The Concert" rewrote the relationship between the arts, the United Palace, and Northern Manhattan everyone is still catching their breath.
The concert redefined who we are. From the actors, musicians and crew caught up in the cultural whirlwind that "In the Heights" unleashed to the local arts community that has continued to make its mark up here at the "Top of the world," to the audience, half of them area residents, the other half Broadway lovers, astonished by the spectacle of entering the majestic Palace for the first time: simultaneously we all recognized that a seismic shift was occurring about where great art happens in this town. The shock waves emanating from the corner of Broadway and W. 175th Street will reverberate through the metropolitan region for some time.
Anyone within the confines of the United Palace when Lin-Manuel Miranda donned his signature hat and, rapping "Lights up on Washington Heights," slipped into his Usnavi persona felt the power crackling through the crowd – ever so close to filling every one of the theatre's 3,400 seats – and strapped in for a joyful Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium type ride. Tears were shed onstage and off.
Many denizens deeply embedded in the cult of "In the Heights" said it was the most electric performance they had witnessed. They screamed with gusto, offering a roar from the cheap seats in the balcony then went mute, with respectful pin-drop silence, during the quietest passages. The building was peopled by hundreds of local residents seeing it for the first time, taking advantage of the discounted tickets provided through the Manhattan Times and Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA). For some it was also their first ever theatrical performance, so much more poignant because it was about them and their neighborhood.
Playbill's review of "In the Heights" at the United Palace
Playbill's review of "In the Heights" at the United Palace: "Alabanza! Original Broadway Cast of In the Heights Celebrates Love, Family and Home in Washington Heights."
The significance of "In the Heights" at the United Palace
After months of planning, yesterday the George Washington Bridge finally arrived on stage at the United Palace, the scenic backdrop for tonight's one-night only performance of "In the Heights: The Concert."
Five years ago this week the musical, which went on to win four Tony Awards, opened its first preview at the Richard Rodgers Theatre at 226 W. 46th Street. It played 29 previews and 1,184 regular performances there while launching national and international touring companies.
But tonight it makes its debut at an actual Broadway address (the United Palace is at 4140 Broadway) and, more importantly, comes home to Washington Heights. It will be the concert version of the musical, performed by the original Broadway cast with members of the touring company taking part at select moments. It will also be a benefit, with proceeds from ticket sales going towards the Broadway League's Family First Nights, the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (NoMAA), and the United Palace of Cultural Arts.
I don't use the word "perfect" with much frequency: far too often it's used to label something that is far from it. But I've had a difficult time describing the significance of mounting "In the Heights" in the Heights at the United Palace without using that word.