Last Friday at the TDF building on Broadway, Play by Play writers all met each other for the first time. Some of those gathered write for the printed magazine version
; others write for the online-only version, like myself (we're called "Ploggers," short for "Play by Play bloggers").
I have to admit I was a little anxious to meet everyone, but as the clock rolled around to 5 p.m. and those who could make it started to roll in, along with the pizza, I could see we were all going to get along just fine. I was very pleased to connect with the majority of the ploggers and other writers, including Christa Tandana, Hannah Perri, Sabrina Khan, Nicolas Munoz, Sarah Abdalla, Trevor Kaplan-Newman, Annelisa Purdie and Mariana Quinn Makwaia.
We especially enjoyed the surprise visit from Tony nominee Manoel Felciano, who has starred in such plays as Cabaret
, Jesus Christ Superstar
and Sweeney Todd
. He spoke about his life as a peformer so far, and what he feel makes a good critic (and what he feel makes a less helpful critic), which I feel was great information to build upon. One of my favorite things he talked about was the time he fell off the stage during a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar
. Breaking his hand and more than one rib from a nine-foot drop off the tilted stage into the orchestra pit, Felciano got back on the stage without even noticing because he was so adrenaline-pumped! At one part later in the same show he had to hold himself up from the scaffolding with his injured hand, which made it swollen to the point where he couldn't use it!
Following our little meet-and-greet, we all headed over to watch the new Broadway musical In the Heights
. The show follows the lives of four main characters: Usnavi, Benny, Vanessa and Nina, who are all just trying to make something of their lives. Usnavi owns the local bodega and runs it with his cousin Sonny, and likes Vanessa, who is trying so hard to get away from the Washington Heights neighborhood. Nina has just returned from college and is trying to keep the fact that she dropped out a secret from everyone, including her parents, and Benny, a non-Hispanic, is just trying to fit in with the Latin community, while also trying to win Nina's heart. Family values and love seem to be most prominent in this tale, which unfolds beautifully.
Even though I sat in the back, I could still see quite well. I had heard a lot of buzz around the show from friends, so I could not wait to see it myself. I have been to Washington Heights many times in the past, so to see it come to life on stage was almost like being there at that moment. And when the lights dimmed and the main character came out to start the number, the set became basically the real thing. If I wasn't already intrigued by what I saw, then what I heard--the music--definitely did the job. Latino flair mixed with rapping and a little musical originality, the score made me want to just get up and dance. I knew that this was going to be a show with Hispanic roots, but I hadn't expected such a performance.
The choreography was well done. The way the dancers smoothly moved across the stage was amazing. My favorite dance is a scene with everyone in the club: The dancers move so quickly without losing an ounce of elegance. This scene is also my favorite because after a blackout, which leaves the audience in total darkness, the only source of light is...well, you'll just have to see for yourself. It's a great moment.
The acting is extraordinary, though I must admit at times it did seem a bit over-scripted. Some characters seemed to be just that: characters on a page. Still, the play was a success in my eyes. The show had me laughing, cheering and at one point, misty-eyed. I also felt it brought out the true feeling of what it means to have immigrated to a new place with relatively nothing yet still to have built something.
If you're looking for a new musical that is full of originality, with music that leaves you wanting to buy the soundtrack, and characters you just fall in love with, I suggest you get up In the Heights
. You won't regret it!
Click here for more information about In the Heights.