After productions in Connecticut (2006) and Off-Broadway (2008), the show opened in a Broadway theatre production in March 2009. This production was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards, winning four: Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography (Andy Blankenbuehler), and Best Orchestrations (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman). It was also nominated for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Miranda wrote the earliest draft of In the Heights in 2000, his sophomore year of Wesleyan University. After the show was accepted by Wesleyan University 's student theater company The Third Stage, Miranda worked on adding "freestyle rap ... bodegas, and salsa numbers." It played from April 27, 2000 to April 29, 2000. After seeing the play, three Wesleyan seniors and one alumni, John Buffalo Mailer, Neil Stewart, Anthony Veneziale and Thomas Kail, approached Miranda and asked if the play could be expanded to be on Broadway. In 2002, Miranda and Mailer worked with director Kail and wrote five separate drafts of In The Heights.
It then opened at the off-Broadway 37 Arts Theatre, running from February 8, 2008 throug July 15, 2008. Directed by Thomas Kail, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and music direction by Alex Lacamoire, it was produced by Jill Furman, Kevin McCollum, Jeffrey Seller and Sander Jacobs. The off-Broadway production was nominated for nine Drama Desk Awards, winning two.
The musical premiered on Broadway, starting in previews on February 14, 2008, with an official opening on March 9, 2008 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The Broadway production was again directed and choreographed by Kail and Blankenbuehler, with most of the off-Broadway principals reprising their roles. The creative team included set design by Anna Louizos, costume design byPaul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Acme Sound Partners, arrangements and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, and music coordination by Michael Keller.
The producers announced on January 8, 2009 that the show had recouped its $10 million investment after 10 months. The cast recording was released on June 3, 2008, by Ghostlight Recordsand won the 51st Annual Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, beating the recordings of The Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein, and the revivals of Gypsy and South Pacific. The Broadway production celebrated its 1000th performance on August 2, 2010.
The Broadway production played its final performance on January 9, 2011 after 29 previews and 1,184 regular performances, making it the 81st longest running show in Broadway history. The final cast starred Lin-Manuel Miranda, Arielle Jacobs, Marcy Harriell, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Olga Merediz, Andréa Burns, and Priscilla Lopez.
The first national tour of In the Heights began on October 27, 2009 in Tampa, Florida. The musical ran in San Juan, Puerto Rico in November 2010, the first time an Equity tour has played in the city. Puerto Rico is the "ancestral home of its librettist Quiara Alegría Hudes and its star and Tony-winning songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda." Miranda played this engagement. The national tour closed on April 3, 2011 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida. At the time of its closing, the tour starred Joseph Morales as Usnavi.
The international premiere opened in Manila, Philippines, on September 2, 2011, and played a limited engagement until September 18, 2011. The new production was directed by Bobby Garcia and starred Nyoy Volante as Usnavi. In the Heights had a repeat run last March 2012 and Lin Manuel Miranda was present in the audience during the opening night.
In The Heights began a new, non-Equity United States national tour, starting on October 17, 2011, according to casting notices. The tour ran until June 2012. The tour played in Chicago in January 2012, with Virginia Cavaliere as Nina, Presilah Nunez as Vanessa and Perry Young as Usnavi, and San Jose, California in April 2012.
- Usnavi de la Vega rhymes with bodega is the narrator of the play's exposition and a major character throughout; He is the owner of a small bodega in Washington Heights. He was named after one of the first sights his parents saw when they arrived in America: a US Navy ship. He dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic, the place he was born but too young to remember. Abuela Claudia, the purple monster, "practically raised" him when his parents both died during his early childhood. He is in love with Vanessa
- Abuela Claudia She is like a grandmother to Usnavi and known and loved by the neighborhood. She and her mother moved from La Havana to New York in 1943 while she was a child. She worked as a maid for several years but never earned the money for her and her mother to travel home.
- Vanessa is Usnavi's love interest who works at the neighborhood salon. She is stunningly beautiful and catches the eye of every guy in the Heights, however she takes an interest in Usnavi. She lives with an alcoholic mother and dreams of getting out of the barrio and getting an apartment downtown, but cannot yet afford it. #spiritanimal
- Nina is the first in her family to go to college (Stanford University), and everyone in the barrio admires her as the "one who made it out." However, she returns home from school for the summer to reluctantly tell her parents that she has been kicked out. She is the typical "good girl" and always respects her parents. Now, though, she feels guilty constantly over her flunking out of college. She is Benny's love interest.
- Benny works at the dispatch of Nina's father, Kevin. He’s often made fun of for his Spanish, because Puerto Rican Spanish is very different from Dominican Spanish. He dreams of starting his own company, and winning the lottery, or getting a large sum of money, as seen in the song: 96,000.
- Sonny is Usnavi's superficially lazy, yet ambitious younger cousin who works with Usnavi in the bodega. He is typically the jokester of the barrio, but he also has an intelligent and thoughtful side that yearns for social justice.
- Daniela is the loud owner of the neighborhood salon. She is very bold and loves to gossip.
- Carla works at Daniela's salon along with Vanessa, and is Daniela's colleague; young and pretty, but a little slow to get the others' jokes and innuendos, she is of Chilean, Cuban, Dominican, and Puerto Rican descent but she always says she is from Queens.
- Kevin is Nina's overprotective father, who, coming from a long line of farmers, has worked hard to resist following in his own father's footsteps.
- Camila is Nina's strong-willed mother, who wants what is best for Nina. She is typically intolerant of Kevin's control issues, but in the course of the show, reveals her real feelings.
- The Piragua Bro (Piragüero) is the owner of a small piragua stand that competes with Mister Softee
- Graffiti Pete is a graffiti artist and ally of Sonny. Usnavi believes he is a trouble-making rascal.
At the crack of dawn, Usnavi, the owner of a small Manhattan bodega, opens his store and chases away a graffiti artist, supplying the local regulars with their coffee, newspapers, and other morning supplies; all the other major characters appear (except for Nina Rosario, who is just returning from the airport), with Usnavi introducing them each to the audience, as they pass through the bodega. Usnavi manages the store with his younger cousin, Sonny, and is adored by all in their Washington Heights community, "the barrio." Nina Rosario enters the scene, back at last from her freshman year at Stanford University; alone, she ponders her struggles at college and readies herself to tell her parents some bad news ("Breathe").
Meanwhile, Nina's parents seek an emergency loan from the bank to keep their struggling taxi dispatch afloat. They leave Benny, a young employee, in charge of the dispatch for the first time ("Benny's Dispatch"). Nina and Benny, old friends, reunite and joke around at the dispatch. Meanwhile, at the hair salon across the street, Vanessa, Usnavi's potential love interest, has financial troubles of her own. Vanessa dreams of escaping to a studio apartment in the West Village, but doesn't have enough money to do so, though she remains optimistic ("It Won't Be Long Now"). When Vanessa stops by Usnavi's bodega, Sonny asks her out to a romantic evening on Usnavi's behalf, and she accepts.
When Nina's parents return, she reveals how she lost her academic scholarship and dropped out of Stanford. Nina's father, Kevin, is devastated that he cannot provide tuition without the scholarship. He recalls a similar experience with his own difficult father, and memories of Nina as a child ("Inútil"). Nina seeks comfort from Vanessa, but the salon owner and local gossip, Daniela, sits Nina down for a makeover and gossip session, coercing Vanessa into admitting that she cares about Usnavi's sexual decisions; Nina then reveals to her friends that she has dropped out ("No Me Diga").
After Usnavi discovers he sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000, everyone on the block dreams of how they would each spend the small fortune ("96,000"). Later, Abuela Claudia—the beloved matriarch of the barrio who "practically raised" Usnavi as a young orphan—reflects on her childhood journey from Cuba to New York in 1943, remembering her mother saying "patience and faith" along the journey, and showing the audience that she secretly holds the winning lottery ticket ("Paciencia y Fé").
Nina and Benny find themselves alone on the street and Nina admits to feeling like an outsider at Stanford as well as here, back home, with her parents now disappointed. The two take a tour of the neighborhood and reminisce, with Benny reassuring Nina that she will change the world one day ("When You're Home"). At a dinner party, Kevin announces that he has sold the dispatch to pay for Nina's tuition. His news is met with anger from Benny, since this means he has lost his job, but Kevin demands that family comes first. Vanessa and Usnavi enter a dance club for their date, followed by an apologetic Nina and a furious Benny; tensions rise on the dance floor because Vanessa and Usnavi are attempting to make each other jealous, while Benny, already a little drunk, hits a random guy who begins dancing with Nina ("The Club"). The entire club breaks out into a huge fight when, suddenly, the power goes out throughout the city. Everything erupts into chaos; Usnavi, Vanessa, Nina and Benny all look for each other in the darkness, while Sonny and his mischievous friend from the opening of the show, Graffiti Pete, attempt to protect the bodega from looters. Pete decides to set off fireworks to distract any thugs, illuminating the sky and helping Benny to find Nina. Abuela Claudia reveals to Usnavi that she won the lottery, while Nina and Benny find each other, argue, and then kiss.
The next morning, Benny and Nina are on Benny's fire escape after spending the night together. Nina teaches Benny some phrases in Spanish and he shares his stress over what Nina's father will think of the two of them as a romantic couple ("Sunrise"). Down on the street, Usnavi's bodega has been looted. Abuela Claudia convinces Usnavi they should use her lottery winnings to move to the Dominican Republic. Usnavi agrees to be rid of his corner store and pursue his lifelong dream at last, with Claudia ("Hundreds of Stories").
Nina's parents have been searching for her all night, and when they learn that she has been with Benny, Kevin is furious. Kevin vows that Benny will never be a part of the Rosario family because he is not Latino. The family is at a breaking point when Camila instructs them to get it together before it is too late ("Enough"). It is high noon and all are frustrated by the extreme heat and continuing power outage. The locals get together for one last celebration before the bodega, the salon, and the dispatch shut their doors forever ("Carnaval Del Barrio"). People, led by a lively Daniela, start to dance and sing, during which Usnavi publicly announces that Abuela Claudia won the lottery, and he and she will soon leave for the Dominican Republic. The neighborhood celebrates, except for Sonny and Vanessa, upset by hearing Usnavi's plans to leave. The celebration ends when Kevin makes an announcement over the taxi radios: Abuela Claudia has suddenly died ("Atención"). The neighbors reunite on the sidewalk, this time to hold a vigil in honor of the barrio's matriarch, while Usnavi, attributing her death to a "combination of the stress and the heat," makes an impromptu eulogy. Usnavi and Nina look through boxes of Claudia's keepsakes: old lottery tickets, photographs, and other items from the history of the people in the barrio ("Everything I Know"). As Nina discovers photographs from her own high school graduation, she decides to accept her father's sacrifice and return to Stanford.
Across the street, as Daniela closes her salon, she reveals one last bit of juicy news: she will co-sign on Vanessa's dream apartment in the West Village, thanks to a little convincing from Usnavi ("No Me Diga" – Reprise). Vanessa brings a bottle of champagne to thank Usnavi and, though she flirts with him, he is so flustered by Claudia's death that he is unable to appreciate Vanessa's attempts; Vanessa gives him reasons to stay without giving away the easy one (that she wants him to) until she suddenly kisses him and leaves. Meanwhile, Benny worries about his relationship with Nina, since her decision to go back west; they stand together as the sun sets, uncertain of their future ("When the Sun Goes Down").
The next morning, Usnavi wakes up early to begin closing up shop. He sees the businesses around him: Daniela's salon is closed, and the Rosario's Car Service sign is gone. In just a few weeks, Usnavi imagines that he will be gone, too, and the block will be completely changed. Sonny, however, has commissioned Graffiti Pete to paint a mural of Abuela Claudia on the bodega's grate. Sonny now rolls down the bodega grate in front of Usnavi, revealing the memorial. Usnavi is stunned that they completed this all in one night; he tells Sonny to spread the news that he has changed his mind to stay, promises to pursue Vanessa, and realizes that this block is his true home ("Finale").
† Designates number not included on original cast recording
|Character||Opening Broadway Cast||Closing Broadway Cast||Notable Broadway
|Graffiti Pete||Matthew Anderson Vaeth||N/A|
|Usnavi||Lin-Manuel Miranda||Corbin Bleu|
|Piragua Guy||Susann Vaeth||Tony Chiroldes||N/A|
|Abuela Claudia||Olga Merediz||N/A|
|Carla||Janet Dacal||Courtney Reed||N/A|
|Daniela||Andréa Burns||Justina Machado|
|Kevin||Carlos Gomez||Rick Négron||N/A|
|Sonny||Robin de Jesús||Shaun Taylor-Corbett||David Del Rio|
|Vanessa||Karen Olivo||Marcy Harriell||N/A|
|Nina||Mandy Gonzalez||Arielle Jacobs||Janet Dacal|
The reviews for the show were positive to mixed (the median grade of 9 major reviews was "B+"). Charles Isherwood's review in The New York Times said that "when this musical erupts in one of its expressions of collective joy, the energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year or two." Heather Bing of The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, "Although I was sometimes struggling to keep up with the hip-hop and Spanish-infused lyrics, the exciting set and choreography paired with excellent acting held my interest in the storyline." David Rooney'sVariety review said, "That depth of feeling, together with the wit of Miranda's lyrics, the playful dexterity of his rhymes, his dynamic score and a bunch of truly winning performances, make the show an uncalculated charmer."
Hudes' book received mixed reviews. Charles McNulty's The Los Angeles Times review mentioned that "the downside to In the Heights is the book...which is overstuffed and oversimplified."The New York Post's Clive Barnes also gave negative comments about the book, saying that "Hudes' work is droopily sentimental and untruthful." Joe Dziemianowicz of the NY Daily News also disliked the book, but added that "what it lacks in story and believability it makes up for in a vibrant rap- and salsa-flavored score, spirited dances and great-looking design."
On November 7, 2008, Universal Pictures announced that they planned to adapt the musical as a feature film for release in 2011. Kenny Ortega was set to direct the film, which was slated to begin filming in summer 2011. However, the project was canceled in March 2011, when Universal opted not to produce the In the Heights film. But in January 2012, Lin-Manuel Miranda said the film adaptation is back under discussion.
On May 27, 2009, PBS Great Performances aired an episode entitled "In The Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams." It documents the journey taken by the cast and crew to bring the show to Broadway and to later win a Tony Award. Producer Andrew Fried and Director Paul Bozymowski captured footage of the cast and creative team for over two years, from Off-Broadway through to their Tony Award win for Best Musical. The special previewed at the Paley Center for Media in New York on May 4, 2009.