Cast of “In the Heights” GUSTAVO RATTIA

Readers might know “In the Heights” from the 2021 summer movie musical sensation. Maybe you only recognize the creator’s name, Lin-Manuel Miranda, as the mastermind behind Hamilton. Or perhaps all you know is that “In the Heights” will be on the Arts Center stage May 4-29.

However, the story of “In the Heights” began in 1999, when a then-unknown Lin-Manuel Miranda was a sophomore at Wesleyan University, decades before he received a MacArthur Genius Grant, won a Pulitzer Prize, or had even thought about turning a founding father into a rapping, Broadway legend.

Young Miranda started pouring his creative brilliance into writing a musical to capture the vibrant life of his old neighborhood, the Latino community in Upper Manhattan known as Washington Heights. The ambitious student’s vision was to develop a show that would blend classic Broadway ballads with the salsa and hip-hop of his youth. And before graduating college, that’s exactly what he did.

The student audience went wild for that early campus production, but it’s no shock that Miranda – a man who has never been satisfied – knew it needed more work.

While he saw the show’s glowing potential, he would continue to refine it for nearly a decade after he graduated. After a strenuous series of workshops, revisions, and an off-Broadway run, “In the Heights” was transferred to Broadway in 2008, where it revolutionized American musical theater for good.

At the time, the words “edgy” and “Broadway” were rarely uttered in the same sentence. There were very few roles written for Latinx actors aside from West Side Story, and despite hip-hop’s naturally theatrical wordplay, no one had successfully integrated the genre into a musical prior to Miranda.

“In the Heights” changed all of that. It was the dawn of a new era of a fresh, vital and multi-cultural Broadway shows, proving that there was room for new sounds and stories that previously had been excluded from mainstream theatre.

Even those who had their doubts about straying from tradition found themselves moved by this buoyant musical. The reviews raved about how Miranda miraculously made a show with “plenty of good old-fashioned Broadway heart” while giving that heart a “thrilling new beat.”

This game-changing musical was nominated for 13 Tonys, winning four of them including Best Musical, won a Grammy, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

What truly won audiences over was the joyous, heartfelt story that is at the root of this explosively energetic and entertaining show. It’s a musical that celebrates home, family, and community by genuinely welcoming everyone to Washington Heights, and we are ready to welcome you to the neighborhood!

The Arts Center’s vibrant production is directed by NYC’s Patdro Harris. Tickets may be purchased by calling 843-842-2787 or online at tickets.artshhi.com.