A couple of weeks ago I finally parked myself at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway to see "In the Heights," the Tony award-winning musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, about New York's Nuyorican and Dominican neighborhood of upper Manhattan.
What a charming, inspiring show.
The show will be closing on January 9, 2011 but the last shows (starting on December 25), will feature its creator and original star Miranda. New York is always the perfect place to be during the holidays so if you're in town for some shopping make some time to go see this history-making musical. After all, it's not every day you see a Latino, or Boricua to be specific, winning a Tony.
So after my high of watching "In the Heights" I became a bit disconcerted when I heard that Universal Pictures, who bought the movie rights in November 2008, appears to be just sitting on the movie project. Especially on the eve of the release of the 2010 Census results which everyone expects to once again anoint Hispanics as the chosen ones.
OK, so I get carried away. But my point is that Universal should be fast-tracking this movie project and not just for Latinos. One of the gratifying things I recall from the Richard Rodgers Theatre is the diversity of the audience and nothing would be more gratifying than to share "In the Heights"' quintessential Hispanic story to the broadest possible audience. To be sure, Broadway audiences are usually mostly white so Universal has within its grasp the opportunity to spread some Latino love to everyone.
But I've heard the studio has had some "creative differences" with Miranda, with the studio insisting on its own screenwriter and Miranda wanting greater creative control. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Miranda a few months after he won his Tony but I surely won't claim to know him. All I can recall from the brief encounter is being struck by his humility. But as with any creative genius, who happens to have crafted a story full of unique cultural insights, I can understand Miranda wanting to protect the message (I'm sure Hispanic creatives can relate).
I mean, could you imagine Streisand trusting Yentl to just any schmuck?
But, as I said before, the message of "In the Heights" is one that all Americans will relate to and appreciate so it behooves Universal--and Miranda--to truly collaborate and deliver an undiluted Latino message that will connect with as wide an audience as possible.
And I hope the hiccups that have already happened with Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal don't screw things up for "In the Heights."
I live in Harlem but often hop over to Washington Heights for the nightlife. It is a uniquely New York neighborhood that all of America should experience. The message of "In the Heights" is truly inspiring, and if means Universal selling the rights to another studio then let's get to it.
By Manny Gonzalez