The audience was so eager for the return of In the Heights on Monday that the box office line at the United Palace of Cultural Arts was four blocks long. Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted to fans waiting outside, promising the show wouldn't start without them.
The one-night-only reunion concert was a kickoff event to benefit the Broadway League's Viva Broadway, an initiative to spark Hispanic interest in theater. The venue, an ornate former vaudeville and movie theater in Washington Heights, sits almost eight miles uptown from the show's former Broadway home, the Richard Rodgers Theater, on West 46th Street. February 14 will mark the five year anniversary of In the Heights' opening on Broadway, where it played from February 2008 through January 2011, a total 1184 performances. The show received the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Orchestrations, and Best Choreography. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Robin De Jesus, and Olga Merediz received Tony nominations for their performances in the show.
The principal cast members for the reunion were Andréa Burns (The Full Monty), Janet Dacal (Wonderland), Robin De Jesus (Rent), Mandy Gonzalez (Wicked), Christopher Jackson (The Jammer), Olga Merediz (Mamma Mia), Rick Negron (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Karen Olivo (Murder Ballad), Eliseo Román (Leap of Faith), Seth Stewart (Sweet Charity), and Natalie Toro (A Tale of Two Cities).
The ensemble members included original cast members Michael Balderrama, Blanca Camacho, Tony Chiroldes, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Rosie Lani Fiedelman, Joshua Henry, Afra Hines, Stephanie Klemons, Nina LaFarga, Doreen Montalvo, Javier Muñoz, Krysta Rodriguez, Luis Salgado, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, and Rickey Tripp. Five years later, these original cast members now included a Tony winner (Olivo for West Side Story), and two additional Tony nominees (Henry for Scottsboro Boys and a second nomination for de Jesus for La Cage Aux Folles).
During the Finale number, an additional "alumni" chorus, consisting of more actors who had appeared on Broadway or on the national tour of In the Heights, joined the stage.
The concert was introduced by Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of the Broadway League, and Luis A. Miranda Jr., father of creator Lin-Manuel, and co-producer of the event. Miranda talked about how the idea for the concert came from a conversation between his son and Karen Olivo.
The notably young crowd was marked by visible cell phone screens throughout the show, but the excited documenters were just as happy to join the cast when they held their glowing phones in the air during "Blackout." And they knew all the words, rapping along with Chris Jackson and Lin-Manuel, yelling out the next lines before the actors even could. Audience members also got a special treat: They heard two cut songs from the musical, including a song for Benny (Chris Jackson) called "Hear Me Out."
Leaving the theater, we overheard one teenage boy saying exclaiming in awe, "He said ‘Bennett Park!'" [a lyric from the finale identifying a neighborhood landmark.] Moments like this were why it was important, and completely awesome, to bring Heights to the Heights.
If you couldn't make it to the Heights on Monday, YouTube has your back. Check out some highlights from the reunion.