In The Heights Review

It’s May everyone!

I haven’t had internet at my house lately because of some paperwork issues with my internet provider. Japan is all about the paperwork. Le sigh.

Anyway I went to see a musical downtown last night called In The Heights.

It was my first time seeing a Broadway musical in Japan and I really enjoyed it. I went because two of my favorite actor/singers performed in it. Matsushita Yuya was the lead role of Benny, and Uehara Takuya played the Piragua Guy. Takuya was hilarious and would coax the audience to applaud him after his Piragua song. We sat really close in the eleventh row, and he left stage left most of the time, so I got to see him pass us a lot. Yuya was mainly stage right but he eventually came towards us during some of the ending scenes and it was probably the closest I have ever seen him despite going to two of his concerts, which are held in tiny live houses. It was the first time I really understood how tall he is.

The musical reminded me of West Side Story. It’s about immigrants and first generation Hispanic-Americans, mostly from the Dominican Republic, who live in Washington Heights in New York City. It was really interesting to see Japanese actors play Hispanic roles, but I think they did an excellent job using Spanish and creating the atmosphere of the streets of New York.

The characters are all really interesting and easy to relate to. Benny is in love with Nina, who went off to Stanford on a scholarship, but comes home to tell her parents that she dropped out due to the stress of having to take on two part-time jobs. Nina’s father Kevin Rosario built his cab service from the ground up and refuses to let Nina quit school since he worked so hard to get her there in the first place. He also doesn’t approve of Benny, who isn’t of Hispanic descent or speak Spanish yet worked for Kevin in hopes of owning his own business as well. Then there is Abuela Claudia who is the matriarch of the neighborhood. She ‘raised’ Usunavi, who owns a small store and struggles with money. They find out that Usnavi sold a winning lottery ticket and chaos ensues.

The story is really touching and it was really cool to almost feel as though I were back in America for the evening. A member of AKB48, Umeda Ayaka (who’s from Fukuoka), played the lead role of Nina, and her voice was really impressive and had great tone quality for the character. There was salsa dancing, jazz music, ballet, etc.

I really like that they got talented artist like Kreva and Matsushita Yuya and Uehara Takuya to play the main roles, because they aren’t as popular as Johnny’s members, but they drew in a large crowd and the audience loved the performance. We gave them a long standing ovation, so the cast came out after curtain call two times to thank us for coming. Takuya waved at my section and I almost died. He is so talented and his acting in the drama ‘Sign’ moved me to tears, so seeing him in person was a real treat. Seeing him fight with Matsushita Yuya in one scene was surreal, since I love both of them so much that having them on the same stage together was unbelievable.

I wrote both Yuya and Takuya fan letters and gave them to the staff when I got to the venue. I felt proud and the whole time I was watching the play, I was getting excited for them to read what I wrote. I’ve written Yuya a fan letter before, but that was before I’d seen him in person, and now I’ve seen him three times so this letter was a little more special.

I really think it’s imperative to go see musicals an plays. It’s an art form that is so tangible and thrilling that I never get enough of them. Concerts are always fun, but musicals move people and help them find their humanity. Even though most of the Japanese people who went to see the play have probably never been to New York or ever met anyone from the Dominican Republic, they got to feel what it was like to experience such things and they learned that people are people no matter what. That’s what I love about internationalization.

Definitely check out In The Heights and go see a musical soon if you can! Spring is the perfect time to relax and refresh yourself for the rest of the year.

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