The Australian premiere of the Tony Award winning musical
In The Heights
James Cutler was in New York doing the typical Australian musical theatre pilgrimage and trying to see as many shows as he possibly could within a couple of weeks. He didn't know much about In The Heights, but knew this new musical had cleaned up at the Tony Awards and had taken New York by storm. Cutler saw the show in the final week before the season closed. He describes the timing as the "peak of fandom" and being the final week, the writer and composer of In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda, had returned to perform. When Miranda appeared on stage the audience erupted into applause lasting several minutes. It pretty much set the tone for the rest of the show. It also set the bar for what Cutler wants to create for this Australian premiere. Cutler still has vivid memories of sitting in that audience – not merely watching, but experiencing In The Heights. He felt he was part of something really big – an original story with original music. Cutler is now directing the Australian premiere of In The Heights, produced by StageArt.
In The Heights is described as a “universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighbourhood – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.”
Despite the story being set in New York, Cutler believe the show will translate amazingly well for Australian audiences – particularly in Melbourne. In fact, Cutler believes In The Heights probably strikes a cord with Melbourne audiences more than any other city in the world, other than the original New York setting: Melbourne is a melting pot of cultures.
What makes In The Heights unique is the music styles within the show: rap, hip hop, break dancing, Latin and salsa. The cast need to be able to not only sing, act and dance, they also need to be able to speak Spanish, breakdance and salsa! Cutler says it is the most diverse cast he's ever worked with. Apart from some musical theatre performers with strong voices, the cast includes hip hop champions, break dancers and performers from the commercial dance world. It's a show that reaches a whole new culture of theatre goers, but at the same time has all the conventions of traditional musical theatre that traditionalists will also enjoy: a love story, comedic characters and song and dance numbers you want to tap along with. Somewhat surprisingly, In The Heights has even been likened in its structure to the classic musical Fiddler On The Roof.
In The Heights will appeal to all ages and Cutler says he was surprised with the vast range of ages amongst the audience when he saw the show in New York. He expected the audience to be predominantly younger people, but sitting amongst those younger people were plenty of older people – parents and grandparents. The show has a surprisingly wide appeal, attracting people from all walks of life.
Rehearsals are well underway and Cutler has been amazed at the incredible energy from this diverse cast, commenting on how they all respect each other's art forms. They are a hard working and highly committed group with a high energy level. As the Australian premiere of In The Heights, Cutler knows there is considerable anticipation and excitement about this show already. As director he feels there is a responsibility to “do it well and do it right.” While he wants to put his own stamp on the show, he also wants to respect the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda.
In The Heights is a new and modern work with contemporary styles – much the same as most of our well-loved classics were when they first premiered. While Jesus Christ Superstar showed theatre-goers that a rock opera is a legitimate art form, RENT showed musical theatre can be contemporary and WICKED brought musical theatre into pop culture, In The Heights shows modern dance and music styles have a place in musical theatre.
Cutler feels there are two types of Australian audiences. The first group are the people who know every single word of each song, know the characters and want to sing along. They want to see the shows they are already love and know. The other group of theatre goers are those wanting something original and fresh. In The Heights will appeal to those audiences. For the traditionalists who want to stick with what they already know, buy a ticket, take a risk and be ready to be pleasantly surprised.
In The Heights opens at Chapel Off Chapel with previews on Wednesday 18th February.
Photo credit: Belinda Strodder
IN THE HEIGHTS
Music & Lyrics By Lin-Manuel Miranda Book By Quiara Alegria Hudes In Association with Origin Theatrical
C A S T
Usnavi: Stephen Lopez (Underbelly, Fat Tony & Co, Neighbours) Nina: Anna Francesca Armenia (Fed Uni) Benny: James Elmer (ABC 3, Studio 3 Host) Vanessa: Bianca Baykara (The King & I, An Officer & A Gentleman)Daniela: Laura Marcucci (Mamma Mia) Abuella Claudia: Francesca Arena (Cats, Fiddler On The Roof, Les Miserable, Follies) Sonny: Andrew Doyle (VCA) Grafetti Pete: Peter Sette (National Hip Hops Champion) Piragua Guy: Gareth Jacobs (Royal Caribbean Cruises) Carla: Sarah Calsina Camilla: Bianca Bruce
Demi Sorono (So You Think You Can Dance, Blaze),Timothy Doherty, Samantha Bruzzese, Joshua Martin, Ashleigh Kiven, Nicolas Mena, Elandrah Ermiha, Jake O’brien
S H O W D A T E S
Wednesday February 18th – 7:30pm Preview
Thursday February 19th – 7:30pm Preview
Friday February 20th – 7:30pm OPENING NIGHT
Saturday February 21st – 2pm Matinee
Saturday February 21st – 7:30pm Performance
Sunday February 22nd – 2pm Matinee
Sunday February 22nd – 7:30pm Performance
Tuesday February 24th – 7:30pm Performance
Wednesday February 25th – 7:30pm Performance
Thursday February 26th – 7:30pm Performance
Friday February 27th – 7:30pm Performance
Saturday February 28th – 2pm Matinee
Saturday February 28th – 7:30pm Performance
Sunday March 1st – 2pm Matinee
Sunday March 1st – 7:30pm Performance
Tuesday March 3rd – 7:30pm Performance
Wednesday March 4th – 7:30pm Performance
Thursday March 5th – 7:30pm Performance
Friday March 6th – 7:30pm Performance
Saturday March 7th – 2pm Matinee
Saturday March 7th – 7:30pm Performance
Sunday March 8th – 2pm Closing Performance
A Reserve: $59 full, $55 concession
(+ transaction fee)
B Reserve: $49 full, $45 concession
(+ transaction fee)
Preview Performances, $49
(+ transaction fee)
Tickets – http://goo.gl/nFzH0D
More Info – www.stageart.com.au