Making it in New York City is tough. Few get the chance to live out their dreams, and the cast and crew of In the Heights know this all too well. This young, diverse group of relatively unknown artists and performers dreamed of making it on Broadway, but are well aware that a new original musical set outside a bodega in the Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights is a highly risky proposition. It took eight years in all, but they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, winning four Tony Awards along the way, including Best Musical and Best Score for a Musical. In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams chronicles the personal stories of composer/lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of In the Heights in the months leading up to its 2008 opening night.
GREAT PERFORMANCES is produced by THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers.
For Miranda, bringing In the Heights to life began when he was a sophomore at Wesleyan University. Having grown up as a first generation Puerto Rican New Yorker in one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods, Miranda always struggled to find his identity and place in life. Writing about the stories, sacrifices and sounds of the people from his neighborhood was a way to share his experience. “When I saw Rent, it was the first time I’d seen a musical that took place now,” recounted Miranda. “A light bulb went off and it was like ‘oh, you can write a musical that’s about you, about your life.’ If you had told me it’d take eight years to finish [In the Heights] I probably would have been too scared to continue.”
In addition to thrilling extended performance sequences of the original cast of In the Heights onstage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, this GREAT PERFORMANCES program offers an intimate look at the production backstage and off-stage. Producers from RadicalMedia first identified the show’s potential at one of the early readings, and began filming the process shortly thereafter. This provides unprecedented access to the cast as they went through workshops, to off-Broadway, and finally to Broadway. Karen Olivo (Miranda’s on-stage love interest, who went on to a Tony Award-winning performance as “Anita” in the 2009 revival of West Side Story), describes her dedication to performing as more like an “addiction”; Mandy Gonzalez finds that her real life experience growing up with immigrant parents mirrors that of her character Nina; and Seth Stewart (“Graffiti Pete”), who has struggled to balance his love of dancing with his football career, is emotionally overwhelmed by seeing his image seven stories tall in Times Square. For Broadway veteran Priscilla Lopez (“Camila”), it is a journey back in time, as she recalls how her role in the original cast of A Chorus Line changed her life, while for Chris Jackson (“Benny,” Tony Award nominee for Hamilton and currently starring in the CBS series Bull), the stakes are extremely high, as the success or failure of the show will directly impact how he can provide for his family, which includes an autistic child. These disparate stories all come together in the rehearsal hall and onstage, as the In the Heights company takes Broadway by storm with their high octane song and dance numbers.
In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams is a RadicalMedia production in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET. For GREAT PERFORMANCES, Bill O’Donnell is Series Producer, Michael Kantor (Broadway: The American Musical, Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America) is consulting producer; David Horn is Executive Producer.
The GREAT PERFORMANCES presentation is funded by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the Irene Diamond Fund, The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust, The Agnes Varis Trust, The Starr Foundation, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, the Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation, The Abra Prentice Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter and PBS.
About RadicalMedia Print
RadicalMedia is constantly exploring and expanding traditional boundaries to push the art of storytelling across all forms of media in collaboration with networks and film studios. Their vast body of award-winning work includes: the Oscar®, Emmy® and Grammy Award®-nominated documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? and the critically acclaimed Keith Richards: Under the Influence, both for Netflix; the Academy Award® and Spirit Award®-winning documentary, The Fog of War; Grammy Award®-winning Concert for George for PBS; The Ron Howard helmed Jay-Z documentary, Made In America for Showtime; the Joe Berlinger films: Emmy Award®-winning documentary, Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skiesfor A&E, the Spirit Award®-winning documentary, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, the Academy Award® and Emmy®-nominated, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory for HBO, and Whitey: The US vs. James J. Bulger for CNN. Additional Television credits include: five seasons of the Emmy Award®-winning series, Oprah’s Master Class, for OWN, six seasons of Iconoclasts for the Sundance Channel, David Blaine: Real or Magic for ABC, the Emmy®-nominated AOL series, Park Bench with Steve Buscemi, Judgement Day: Prison or Parole? for Investigation Discovery, two ESPN “30 for 30” films, Doc & Darryl and You Don’t Know Bo, and Hello World!for Discovery Channel. Highly anticipated projects in production include, Hamilton’s America for PBS, examining the creative force and rich history behind Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony®, Grammy® and Pulitzer Prize®-winning Broadway megahit; Stan Against Evil, the IFC comedy-horror series from writer Dana Gould, and the six-part mini-series event, Mars for Nat Geo with partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment.
About WNET Print
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station and parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21. WNET also operates NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Roseand a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings. WNET’s groundbreaking series for children and young adults include Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase as well as Mission US, the award-winning interactive history game. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Theater Close-Up, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the daily multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. In addition, WNET produces online-only programming including the award-winning series about gender identity, First Person, and an intergenerational look at tech and pop culture, The Chatterbox with Kevin and Grandma Lill. In 2015, THIRTEEN launched Passport, an online streaming service which allows members to see new and archival THIRTEEN and PBS programming anytime, anywhere: www.thirteen.org/passport.