In the Moment: ‘In the Heights’ (Spanish Version) at GALA Hispanic Theatre

New theater voices, heard in their own language and accessible to a wide audience. In a world-class area full of strivers like the DC metro area, it is about time.

The cast of In the Heights at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Rose Campiglia.

This admiring column is based totally upon personal reactions to Teatro Hispano GALA’s U.S. premier of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights en español (in Spanish translated by Amaury Sanchez with English surtitles). This column is written by an unabashed, proud city kid. I love urban energy. I enjoy a vivid street-scene; a city-scape full of people leading to the unexpected is a joy.

GALA’s In the Heights, directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado, is a musically-rich feast, danced with youthful flourish, and a wonderfully loud, brash all blended-together cacophony of human energy. The musical production is propelled by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pre-Hamilton, Latin-musical rhythms in this case played to a delicious peak by a smoking- hot 10-piece club band led by Music Director Walter “Bobby” McCoy.

Music Director Walter “Bobby” McCoy. Photo courtesy of Mr. McCoy.

For a native-English speaker like me, GALA’s Spanish-English meld of voices is like walking down a city street populated with folk speaking a mélange of languages and dialects all at the same time. I like that, lots. Others, may not; and that is OK.

At GALA I became once again a flanuer on a New York City streets (I lived in the Bronx myself right by Spuyten Duyvil Creek). Windows of apartments are open with voices speaking any number of different languages Store-front doors are open inviting me in. Cars and trucks are moving slowly with windows open and radios on sending out a stream of different musical styles. Altogether, it is like a symphony orchestra that is un-conducted but has such a marvelous complex sound and rhythm. And yes noise too.

Now, the DCMTA review of GALA’s In the Heights, from my DCMTA colleague, Nicole Hertvik, is here.

So, let me add a couple of personal tidbits to Nicole’s review. I have followed and written about the career of Music Director Bobby McCoy with Northern Virginia-based theaters. McCoy’s work at GALA is commanding. Not only does he lead the 10-piece band through nearly two dozen musical numbers, but he helped devise new orchestration.

Tucked away in a perch over the performers on stage, the band provides a tremendous wall-of-sound, with horns and percussion galore for the In the Heights Latin and Hip-Hop based musical numbers. The GALA band makes for an infectious atmosphere at the Tivoli venue. Perhaps, like me, you too will want to stand up and “baile tropicale” for numbers such as “96,000” and “El Numero* de la Discoteca/The Club,” to name just two.

Even more, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical composition for In the Heights played by a spirited band, reminded me that music has no boundaries, if we allow it to enter into us. I spoke to McCoy and later to several of the band members after the performance; they each spoke of having as much fun the performers seen onstage).

In the Heights is invigorating, rousing, lively, and rambunctious. Performed by a passionate, enthusiastic cast and band members with roots throughout Latin America and the DC area, In the Heights in Spanish is a rousing adventure. It brims with a fresh story about hopes and dreams; and how traditions can both sustain and wall off.

The cast of In the Heights at GALA Hispanic Theatre. Photo by Shalev Weinstein.

For me, In the Heights, whether in Spanish or English, is a not so dis-similar story say from say Fiddler on the Roof, just told in a different language, with a different musical style. But similar is a story of new immigrants coming to America wanting to make a better life for their children, while trying to keep traditions somehow still alive.

Let me riff from one of the lines of dialogue from In the Heights about the NYC “A” train subway. I took the “A” train express from the tip of Manhattan to lower Manhattan for a number of years. There were a couple of miles when the train made no stops, whooshing with wild speed ride hundreds of feet under city streets. So, there was the rushing of the train wheels noise mixed with the many voices speaking many languages in the subway car with me. Did I understand everyone? Nope. I am sure I missed plenty as I quietly tried to observe and hear. But I lived for that morning commute as a thrill ride of life. A man in a suit, who inside was feasting on all my surroundings.

Running Time: Two hours and 30  minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.

In the Heights plays through May 21, 2017, at GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 234-7174, or purchase them online.

Nicole Hertvik reviews In the Heights (Spanish Version).

Who’s in Town?: Director and Choreographer Luis Salgado, Director and Choreographer of GALA Theatre’s Spanish Language ‘In the Heights’ by Nicole Hertvik.


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