Fun, really good fun, actually – this is the new one from Lin Manuel Miranda, about Anthony Ramos’ Usnavi (there’s a good reason for this strange name) who runs a bodega corner shop in Washington Heights, at the top of Manhattan.
Written before his stunning success with Hamilton, it’s about the latino community, past and present, about gentrification, roots, and longing for home, wherever that may be and it’s all put across in big dance numbers, some on the streets, or in a swimming pool, or a nail salon, or on the side of a building. The choreography is as witty as the rapped lyrics, especially when there’s a lucky lottery ticket sold to someone in the neighbourhood awaiting collection at the El Suenito bodega….
I enjoyed it because I like musicals and I found the lyrics a slick joy to listen to. But it’s very sentimental, sanitised and sweet and there’s a lack of momentum and drama. There’s no real story here and, ironically, after the big power cut scene, it’s underpowered ’til the end and drags its feet over the 143 mins run time.
Nevertheless, Ramos is always hugely likeable, the girls played by Melissa Barrera as Vanessa and Leslie Grace as Nina, and Corey Hawkins’ Benny are all very attractive to watch and I liked many of the songs which introduce us to so many characters, like Oliver’s Who Will Buy scene, and the West Side Story Tonight medle, all set to that descarga beat. It could be, should be a long hot musical for summer.
Featured image: Macall Polay