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S45 Ep5

In The Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams

Premiere: 11/10/2017 | 00:00:29 | Closed Captioning Icon

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.



About the Episode

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 MusicalMake ‘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

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.



-Every day has the potential to be the greatest day of your life.

[ Cheers and applause ] [ Indistinct chatter ] [ Camera shutters clicking ] This is nuts.

-And the winner -- the 2008 Tony Award goes to... 'In the Heights'.' [ Cheers and applause ] -We love Broadway!

-Thank you!

-All right. Here you go. Congratulations.

[ Photographers shouting ] [ Camera shutters clicking ] -My name is Lin-Manuel Miranda.

I'm the composer and lyricist for 'In the Heights,' and I also play Usnavi.

'In the Heights' is a classic American story.

It's really a celebration of this neighborhood at the top of Manhattan.

It's three days in the life.

We see people fall in love, we see people fight and argue, and -- and it's really about these three generations sort of trying to find home and what that means to them.

[ 'In the Heights' plays ] ♪ Me and my cousin runnin' ♪ ♪ Just another dime-a-dozen mom-and-pop stop-and-shop ♪ ♪ And oh, my God, it's gotten ♪ ♪ Too darn hot like my man Cole Porter said ♪ ♪ People come through for a few cold waters ♪ ♪ And a lottery ticket, just part of the routine ♪ ♪ Everybody's got a job, everybody's got a dream ♪ ♪ They gossip as I sip my coffee and smirk ♪ ♪ The first stop as people hop to work ♪ ♪ Bust it, I'm like ♪ ♪ One dollar, two dollars, one fifty ♪ ♪ One sixty-nine, I got it ♪ ♪ You want a box of condoms, what kind? ♪ ♪ That's two quarters, two quarter waters ♪ ♪ The New York Times, you need a bag for that? ♪ ♪ The tax is added ♪ ♪ Once you get some practice at it ♪ ♪ You do rapid mathematics automatically ♪ ♪ Sellin' maxi pads, fuzzy dice for taxicabs ♪ ♪ Practically everybody's stressed, yes ♪ ♪ But they press through the mess ♪ ♪ Bounce checks and wonder what's next ♪ -♪ In the Heights ♪ ♪ I buy my coffee and I go ♪ ♪ I buy my coffee and set my sights ♪ ♪ On only what I need to know ♪ ♪ What I need to know in the Heights ♪ ♪ Money is tight, but even so ♪ ♪ Even so ♪ ♪ When the lights go down ♪ ♪ I blast my radio ♪ ♪ -[ Whistling ] I started writing 'In the Heights' my sophomore year at college at Wesleyan University.

At first, it was, 'I want to write the kind of musical I would want to be in.'

I also saw 'Rent,' and it was the first time I had seen a musical that took place now.

And a light bulb really went off, and I was like, 'Oh you can write, like, a musical about you, about your life.'

It wasn't till I got to Wesleyan, really, that I realized that there is a generation of us who either were born somewhere else and moved here or their parents came from somewhere else, whether it's from Latin America or Russia or the West Indies, and -- and don't know where they belong and what they're supposed to navigate and what traditions you take with you.

-I'm an L.A. native. -Born in New York.

-Kent, Ohio. -Born in L.A.

-I grew up in Puerto Rico. -I'm from Miami.

-My dad is American, but my mom is from Venezuela.

-My dad's Mexican. My mom's Jewish.

-My parents were immigrants.

-My family came in the '50s, and they were very poor.

-I've always been the one to kind of say that I'm going to do something different.

[ Indistinct conversations ] Hi.

I'm Mandy Gonzalez and I'm playing Nina and I'm so excited!

Okay. [ Laughter and applause ] [ Laughter ] -I'm Seth Stewart I'll be playing Graffiti Pete, and I cannot wait till we get started, so here we go.

[ Cheers and applause ] -I'm Karen Olivo, and I play -- -[ Laughs ] -Shut up! [ Laughter ] I'm Karen Olivo. I play Vanessa.

-I am Priscilla Lopez, better known as P.Lo.

[ Cheers and applause ] -My name is Chris Jackson. I play Benny.

Let's do work, y'all. We're gonna change the world.

It starts today [ Applause ] -In exactly 30 days, we're going to put up the new and final 'In the Heights,' and the question for today is, 'Can we do better?'

[ Piano plays ] -One, a-two, a-one, two, three.

-♪ In the Heights ♪ ♪ I flip the lights and start my day ♪ ♪ There are fights ♪ -♪ And endless debts ♪ -♪ And bills to pay ♪ -♪ In the Heights ♪ I wrote this song -- ♪ En Washington Heights ♪ That's the only thing from the original version that survives into the present. It was the hook.

-♪ In the Heights ♪ Did you guys sing that?

Yeah? Give me a little bit more of that, and... -I was like, 'I don't know if this is going to work on a stage.

So I started writing, like, scenes where they freestyle outside the bodegas.

The first scene was Benny and Usnavi sort of rapping about whatever, and it was, like, making puns on their names and doing the stuff that me and my friends use to do in, you know, in parks in Queens and in my neighborhood.

-♪ Ooh, smooth operator ♪ ♪ Aw, damn, there she goes ♪ ♪ Yo, bro, take five, take a walk outside ♪ ♪ You look exhausted, lost, don't let life slide ♪ ♪ The whole hood is struggling, man, times are tight ♪ ♪ But you're stuck to this corner like a streetlight ♪ -♪ Yeah, I'm a streetlight, choking on the heat ♪ ♪ The world spins around while I'm frozen to my seat ♪ ♪ The people that I know all keep on rolling down the street ♪ ♪ But every day is different, so I'm switchin' up the beat ♪ ♪ 'Cause my parents came with nothing ♪ ♪ They got a little more ♪ ♪ And sure, we're poor, but yo, at least we got the store ♪ ♪ It's all about the legacy they left with me, it's destiny ♪ ♪ And one day, I'll be on a beach ♪ ♪ With Sonny writing checks to me ♪ -♪ In the Heights, I hang my flag up on display ♪ -♪ We came to work and to live, and we got a lot in common ♪ -♪ It reminds me that I came from miles away ♪ -♪ D.R., P.R., we are not stoppin' ♪ -♪ In the Heights ♪ ♪ Every day, ♪ -♪ Until the day we go from poverty to stock options ♪ -♪ In the Heights, I've got today ♪ -♪ And today's all we got, so we cannot stop ♪ ♪ This is our block ♪ -♪ In the Heights ♪ ♪ I hang my flag up on display ♪ -♪ Lo le lo le lo lai lai lo le ♪ -♪ It reminds me that I came from miles away ♪ -♪ My family came from miles away ♪ -♪ In the Heights ♪ ♪ It gets more expensive every day ♪ -♪ Every day ♪ -♪ And tonight is so far away ♪ -♪ But as for ♪ You gotta just keep watchin' ♪ ♪ You'll see the late nights ♪ ♪ You'll taste beans and rice ♪ ♪ The syrup and shaved ice ♪ ♪ I ain't gonna say it twice ♪ ♪ So turn up the stage lights, we're takin' a flight ♪ ♪ To a couple of days in the life of what it's like ♪ -♪ En Washington Heights ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -Here we go. Ready? -Five, six, seven, eight.

-Rehearsal is about crafting something, It's about trying to realize things that have existed in your mind for weeks and months and years.

And I'm not someone who comes in with everything mapped out.

I like to try to find things in the room.

We have the information about what's happening, how you guys feel about that.

But I find things in the room because I was there when these characters were created, because I had something to do with the formation of their DNA.

And is this something that we're still feeling you want to musicalize? -Absolutely.

What we're doing, it is original as opposed to taking a story that we know people already relate to through a movie, through a book, and trying to fit that onto the stage in a creative way.

Like, we are really starting from the ground up.

We've gone through a lot of trying at different times to put scene beats in, but I feel like once the song starts, it is so grooving that any time we go back to text, it's just a disappointment.

-From 'In the Heights, I hang my flag up,' To 'En Washington Heights,' it's a little faster than it needs to be.

Leonard Cohen has a great quote that says, 'Being a songwriter is like being a nun.

You're married to a mystery.'

Every time you start, you feel like you've never done this before, and you have no idea how you did it.

But for all of the -- the torture and agony that comes with writing, there is literally not a better feeling in the world than when you've finished a song.

♪ You know, 'I made this.

Look, I made a hat, but there never was a hat.'

And you can sing it through.

♪ Yo, here's your chance, ask her out right now ♪ ♪ I'll see you later, we can look at that lease ♪ ♪ Do somethin', make your move, don't freeze, hey ♪ ♪ You owe me a bottle of cold champagne ♪ That moment when you just got it, that's the best part to be honest, even before you play it for anyone and you give it away for far better singers to sing.

♪ -I've always wanted to sing ever since I was a kid.

I've always really wanted to do theater.

I come from a hardworking family.

My dad was a migrant worker and he then was a factory worker, and mom worked, as well.

I grew up a lot with my grandma, and I was, like, the only grandchild that would sing along with her, so she immediately put me into lessons.

Okay. Sit.

[ Snaps fingers ] Down. Good boy.

My parents did everything for me to be here.

Let's go.

And when I first came here with my mom and I walked outside for the first time and I saw the lights, I was just like, 'I love it here.'

I came here to fulfill my dream, which was to be on Broadway.

[ Whimpers ] [ Laughs ] -I started sort of just writing about Benny, and I thought of Nina, who is, you know, away and is coming home for the first time from college.

-♪ Nina ♪ -♪ ♪ -♪ They're not worried about me ♪ -♪ ♪ -There's a lot of myself in Nina because to make it here, I think that you have to go through a lot of failure.

So, 'Breathe' is like every time I didn't make it, 'What am I going to tell my parents?'

-♪ The one who always made the grade ♪ ♪ But maybe I should have just stayed home ♪ ♪ When I was a child, I stayed wide awake ♪ ♪ Climbed to the highest place on every fire escape ♪ ♪ Restless to climb ♪ -♪ ♪ -♪ I got every scholarship, saved every dollar ♪ ♪ The first to go to college ♪ ♪ How do I tell them why I'm coming back home ♪ ♪ With my eyes on the horizon ♪ ♪ Just me and the GWB ♪ ♪ Asking, 'Gee, Nina, what'll you be?' ♪ When I sing the song, that's me.

You know, I know how it feels to want to be the best, and sometimes, it just doesn't happen.

♪ Oh, God, and what will my parents say? ♪ -♪ Nina ♪ -♪ Can I go in there and say ♪ -♪ Nina ♪ -♪ 'I know that I'm letting you down' ♪ -♪ Nina ♪ -♪ Just breathe ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] ♪ You would open it every summer ♪ -♪ I would bust it with a wrench till my face got drenched ♪ -2002, I was finishing a show in Chicago, and I got a call from someone who was doing a reading who said, 'There's a role.

You got to come and meet these guys.

They're young, they're exciting, and they're doing something that's completely different.'

And I sang for them, and it started the whole process.

Now I'm gonna get ya! I'm gonna get ya!

-[ Giggles ] -Now I'm gonna get ya.

Tickle, tickle, tickle.

Tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle.

-[ Laughs ] -Oh! -You okay?

-CJ, CJ, please don't go.

I'll eat you up. I love you so.

Having CJ in our lives really puts everything in perspective, and it kind of attaches a timeline to everything because I don't know that if I had a million dollars in the bank -- I still wouldn't be comfortable enough, you know?

I wouldn't 'cause it's -- You just don't know what to prepare for.

-High five. -High five.

-[ Screams ] -No. Relax.

Squeeze. Ooh, squeeze.

-When I found out CJ had autism, the first thing that went through my mind was, 'How are we going to take care of CJ the rest of his life?'

That's literally what I thought.

How am I going to be an actor and provide for a child with special needs and I don't have anything?

Where's my huggies? -Give Daddy hugs.

-Why don't I get huggies?

Come here. Come here. Aah!

-It's tough not having Chris around, but you make it work however you can.

-And you pray a lot.

-We kind of -- We tag teamed it for a while.

-I miss a lot of it, but, you know, that's -- Somebody got to keep the lights on.

You know, you miss -- We both miss a lot.

It's just different stuff.

-[ Giggles ] -[ Laughs ] Give me a kiss.

Where's my kiss?

-[ Laughs ] -Give me a kiss. Mwah!

A-gah gah gah gah gah gah.

-Turn around, say bye-bye. -Bye.

-There's only going to be potentially one night a week that I can tuck him in.

That's the only part about this whole thing that I hate.

♪ The cast is going through a weird transition.

We're almost there, but we can't quite grab a hold of it yet.

♪ -Three-quarters of the cast is making their Broadway debut at the show.

They're not used to analyzing the shape.

Almost all of our steps in the show, we have to understand the focus of the step.

All those steps have the zeroed-in razor energy.

If we keep dancing with our bodies, it's not going to happen.

A thing that a lot of the cast doesn't understand is when we open on Broadway, we have to be freaking the best as possible.

♪ You have to be on fire every night.

♪ ♪ ♪ ♪♪♪ ♪♪♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -I knew I wanted to do this probably since I was little, probably since under the age of 10.

Back then, I was playing sports like football and wrestling, but this was always in the back of my head and was like, 'This is what you're supposed to do.'

Went to college at 18. I was a dance major.

I figured that school wasn't for me because as a dancer, your body doesn't last that long.

So, I quit school, and my parents had a heart attack, and I was kind of homeless for a couple of weeks, months.

I'm trying not to think about injury.

I'm trying not to think about anything negative.

Those people are paying, $115, $110 for a ticket.

They don't care if you were hurt.

They don't care if you're sick to your stomach.

Give me $110 show.

That's what it comes down to, and so that's what we got to do.


It's for joints. It's for, like, cartilage.

Like, I don't have any cartilage in my knees, and I tore my meniscus.


Just smelling it makes me cringe.

Ugh. It's the worst-tasting... in the world.

I was inspired to dance because I loved it.

It was in me.

I was into guys like Ben Vereen.

I was, like, into Fosse and stuff like that.

This is my grandfather, who used to be on Vaudeville and used to entertain the troops.

He was a hoofer. He was a tapper.

So, this is where it all started.

Nobody understood my love of dance and just being on stage, being multiracial.

My dad's black, and my mom's white.

I was too dark for the white kids, but too light for the black kids.

I always had the problem of being the odd ball of dancing and playing football.

You know, I'm dancing, so now I'm gay.

So now I'm this, so now I'm that.

And it was like, 'You know what?

I'ma leave that all behind. I'ma go to New York.'

And that's why people come here is to also be free.

It's to be themselves, to be weird, to just live.

This is a promise poem from my football coach.

It's interesting 'cause it kind of reminded me of my dad.

My dad, like, really pushed me, like, you know, 'cause you get a son and he wants to play football and he wants to dance and he can be like, 'Man, you all right?'

You know, but he was like, 'No, do you want to dance?

Like, you can wrestle and dance and play football, and we'll figure out a way to make it happen.'

I don't really know where we're going.

I'm just going for the ride, and I'm just happy to be a part of it, to be honest with you.

-I wanted to be Chuck Jones and Steven Spielberg when I grew up.

-In high school, I wanted to be like Billy Joel.

-Michael Jackson and MC Hammer.

-I always wanted to be, like, this amazing dancer.

-I expect and want to be successful.

I wanted to be recognized.

-It's like an addiction of some sort.

-It's like a disease.

-My dad was, like, 'Well, you're very creative.

You should be a lawyer.'

[ Indistinct chatter ] You guys have gotten an extraordinary number of changes, and thank you for learning them so quickly and so well and executing them so beautifully.

There are more to come, and I have no doubt that we're ready, so let's go.

See ya on Broadway.

-It's a great luxury to have two days off before you head into tech.

Please rest your bodies.

Rest yourselves. Rest your souls.

Rest your minds because when we hit it, we're going to hit it hard, and we're going to hit it fast.

[ Piano plays in distance ] -[ Gasps ] -Take a look at the side.

Like, the side, you can see the -- -Oh, I see one over here, yeah.

-Everything is really developed.

You have all the real architecture.

It's super detailed.

-Oh, this is great, with the grate down here.

-Look at the signs back here.

-Oh, yeah, and Rosario's comes off.

-Oh, yeah!

-Oh, my gosh. That is huge!

[ Indistinct conversations ] -That's awesome. -It's actually -- It's narrower from side to side, right?

-Yeah, it's narrow, and you're on a different angle now.

-I love that fence. -The fence is great.

-These two right here? -Yeah. Totally.

-This is a theater that we wanted, and then it didn't seem like it was going to happen.

And then out of nowhere, through a series of circumstances, a couple of phone calls later, you're standing in the middle of the theater with everything stripped out, and this is what's next.

And there's no better location.

Right in the middle of the world.

♪ -[ Clapping hands ] That's just one clap.

Can you imagine what it's going to sound like when there's, like, how many people sitting in here?

[ Clapping hands ] Dude, this looks crazy.

-Are you psyched? -Yes I'm...psyched.


Yay! The stage looks so much -- -It's crazy right? -It's different.

-Well, it's real. -Look at the real candy I have.

-[ Gasps ] You have real stuff.

-[ Laughs ] -I like this theater already.

♪ -It's good to see all of you sitting in these seats.

[ Cheers and applause ] So just as Jason was saying, not only is it going to be, you know, finding all of these new places, but it's going to be recalibrating from the rehearsal room for us, it's going to be us getting a chance to see which of those ideas stick, which don't, and just kind of... ♪ -It's crazy to see your neighborhood inside a theater you've been to.

You've seen shows in that theater.

That's my bodega door. It's frickin' crazy.

-Backstage left is a workshop right now.

It will be more contained eventually, but not today.

-There's a whole first generation of immigrants.

You grow up with your parents' tradition, you go to school with a completely different set of traditions, and you try to find yourself within the margins.

I certainly have.

I've tried to write a show, working that out for myself.

-I grew up in a mixed home, and I always felt, in my small community, like I was different.

-We have a lot to do.

-Of all the times I felt like the oddball or all the times in high school and college where I felt like the one out of the group, This is the first place I can say I've been where it's -- I feel at home.

-I feel like I'm in the exact, right place for myself right now.

With this project, I don't know, everything's sort of fallen into place.

-Oh! -[ Gasps ] A lot of things that I hadn't dealt with in my past -- being a Latina and not owning up to it because of where I was raised.

I'm between Chris and Mandy.

Cute, right? Not bad.

With an amazing view of the Church of Scientology.

[ Laughs ] Because I didn't speak Spanish, and I've never gone to the countries that I'm from, I've always felt like a bit of a fake.

[ Inhales sharply ] Is that... Like a fake Latina.

This is the basement.

This where sound and props live.

And you can get to the pit from here.

And my parents had a really, really hard time when they first came here.

Neither of them spoke English, and they were ostracized.


They didn't want me to have to deal with the fact that some people will always look at you like you don't belong.

We have a full bathroom with a shower.

Olga's room. -My room.

-And I didn't really it get it until I got in the show.

♪ The elevated train by my window ♪ ♪ Doesn't faze me anymore ♪ ♪ The rattling screams don't disrupt my dreams ♪ ♪ It's a lullaby in its way ♪ ♪ The elevated train drives everyone insane ♪ ♪ But I don't mind, oh, no ♪ ♪ If I bring back boys, they can't tolerate the noise ♪ ♪ And that's okay 'cause I never let them stay ♪ ♪ And one day, I'm hoppin' in an elevated train ♪ ♪ And I'm riding away ♪ ♪ Yeah ♪ ♪ It won't be long now ♪ -Hey! -[ Whistles ] -♪ The boys around the way holler at me ♪ ♪ When I'm walking down the street ♪ ♪ Their machismo pride doesn't break my stride ♪ ♪ It's a compliment, so they say ♪ ♪ The boys around the way holler at me every day ♪ ♪ But I don't mind, oh, no ♪ ♪ If I'm in the mood, it will not be with some dude ♪ ♪ Who is whistling 'cause he has nothing to say ♪ ♪ Or who's honking at me from his Chevrolet ♪ ♪ And one day, I'm hoppin' in a limousine ♪ ♪ And I'm riding away ♪ ♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ It won't be long now ♪ [ Indistinct shouting ] -Five, six, a-five, six, seven, eight.

-♪ Dance with me one last night in the hood again ♪ -Wepa!

-♪ Carnaval ♪ -A lot of us in the company are first generation stateside, and it is an incredible thing to be able to, through our work, be carrying the legacy of our parents.

-♪ Del barrio ♪ -Being able to be a part of a show so amazing like 'In the Heights' that talks about our community, it's not creating clichés.

It's just saying this is our life.

-♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ -Finally a role where I do not have to carry a gun, I am not in a gang, I am not selling drugs.

I'm just, normal human being who happens to be Hispanic and happens to live in this wonderful place called Washington Heights.

-♪ I used to think we lived at the top of the world ♪ ♪ When the world was just a subway map ♪ ♪ And the 1/9 ♪ -I think one of the most autobiographical sections of the show is Nina's bridge in 'When You're Home' and she goes ♪ When I was younger, I'd imagined what would happen ♪ ♪ if my parents would have stayed in Puerto Rico ♪ That line is, like, what I spent most of my childhood wondering.

-♪ Come with me ♪ -That question of finding home is not only a geographical one, but really an emotional one of, you know, what does it mean to be Puerto Rican if you don't live in Puerto Rico or Dominican if you don't live in the Dominican Republic?

-♪ When I was younger, I'd imagine what would happen ♪ ♪ If my parents had stayed in Puerto Rico ♪ ♪ Who would I be if I had never seen Manhattan ♪ ♪ If I lived in Puerto Rico with my people? ♪ ♪ My people ♪ ♪ I feel like all my life, I've tried to find the answer ♪ ♪ Working harder, learning Spanish ♪ ♪ Learning all I can ♪ ♪ I thought I might find the answer out at Stanford ♪ ♪ But I'd stare out at the sea ♪ ♪ Thinking, 'Where am I supposed to be?' ♪ ♪ So please don't say you're proud of me ♪ ♪ When I've lost my way ♪ -♪ Then can I say ♪ ♪ I couldn't get my mind off you all day ♪ ♪ Now, listen to me ♪ ♪ That may be how you perceive it ♪ ♪ But, Nina, please believe ♪ ♪ That when you find your way again ♪ ♪ You're gonna change the world and then ♪ ♪ We're all gonna brag and say ♪ ♪ I knew her when ♪ ♪ Yeah ♪ ♪ This was your home ♪ -♪ I'm home ♪ -♪ Welcome home ♪ -♪ When you're here with me ♪ -♪ Welcome home ♪ -♪ I used to think we lived at the top of the world ♪ -♪ Welcome home ♪ -♪ I'm home ♪ -♪ You're finally home ♪ -♪ I'm home ♪ -♪ You're ♪ -♪ Home ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -♪ ♪ Come and join the ♪ -Wepa.

-♪ Carnaval ♪ -♪ Carnaval ♪ -♪ Del barrio ♪ -♪ Barrio ♪ -♪ Carnaval ♪ -♪ Carnaval ♪ -♪ Del barrio ♪ -♪ Barrio ♪ -I am Priscilla Lopez.

I play the role of Camila Rosario.

I play Nina's mother.

I'm an actor.

I'm happy to be an actor.

I've been doing this a long time.

This is all of us minus two.

This is the day that we went on 'The Donahue Show' when 'Chorus Line' was closing, and this is the original company.

I'm the beautiful one right here.

[ Laughs ] I was nominated for a Tony Award for 'Chorus Line,' but I didn't get the Tony Award, which everyone thinks I did, but I did not.

I actually won for another show called 'A Day in Hollywood/ A Night in the Ukraine.'

-This is long overdue, and it's really, truly my pleasure to present Priscilla with this.

[ Cheers and applause ] -I just want to tell you. Listen.

The first time you walk into Sardi's and see all these pictures, you say, 'I'd really love to be up on that wall.'

And today's that day.

[ Cheers and applause ] I'm just so happy, and I'm so happy that it's happening in a time of my life when I'm in a show with [ Cheers and applause ] For me, I'm looking at them, and they're just about the age I was when I did 'A Chorus Line.'

[ Indistinct chatter ] And I remember that total excitement.

When things like this happen to you for the first time and you're in the middle of it, sometimes you don't realize the bigness of it.

-Yo, they're putting it up right now as we speak.

♪ ♪ ♪ [ Laughing ] Holy... Oh, my God.

You got to be kidding me right now.

Mom, there is a seven-story poster of me on Broadway between 46th and 47th.

Yes, they're putting it up right now with the crane.

It's got flashing lights around it!

You would have a heart attack!

I-I -- Oh.


[ Chuckles ] -Heck, yeah.

-Hold on, Mom. Hold on.

Whoo. [ Chuckles ] ♪ -Ladies... -Oh, my God.

-I got this thing. It's, um -- [ Shouts ] -That's awesome.


-Hey. It's magazine.

Oh! What?! -Get the...out, son.

-Look at that... Look at that.

Read the last paragraph.

-'Indeed, 'In the Heights' might even be regarded as the first musical of the Barack Obama era.

It represents change on Broadway.

It's a show full of hope, and it has its producers and a lot of other people who want Broadway to reach out to new audiences with contemporary, heartfelt shows like these, crying, 'Yes, we can.'' -Cool.

-That is bananas.

-It's a strange thing when you put something out there.

There are those moments where your show begins to become sort of, part of the consciousness of a world that you have been very conscious of for so long.

-I think what we try to do in life is build something that's going to outlive us.

It's even written into the show of the, 'What do we leave behind?'

My dad was born in Puerto Rico.

He got into the University of Puerto Rico when he was 15.

He was done at 18.

He came to New York and was enrolled in this post-doc psychology program at 18 years old.

Whatever he does, he's excellent at.

I knew I needed to, whatever I did, do it incredibly well.

[ Indistinct conversations ] -Fear is the one thing that controls everything in this world.

Not God, not love -- fear.

That's one thing in my life I'm trying to learn about is what am I afraid of and why am I afraid of it.

[ Can thuds ] Pfft!

-I would do the thing in the beginning.

The more calm you are about it, the better it is.

If you start chucking... -Yeah.

-There's so many things that can go wrong every day.

You know, and you can't insulate yourself from it.

You have to expose yourself to it.

♪ ♪ -Our next seven days are about to be really, really, really scary.

Like, we have to be perfect.

We do. We do.

You can say whatever you want, but it's, like... -Yeah. -It's like we have to be at our best.

Every day has to be our best.

-Once they get down to this last before the stop, like, when they really go for it, that sort of allows -- -But they can't do it big.

-No, no, it's not big. It's about intensity.

-If you are not on point, if your timing is not perfect, if your rotation is not right, you will mess up someone that you love dearly.

You may even hurt them.

-If I keep my chest back -- -Both were good, getting in and getting off.

-Okay. -You okay?

-It sucks. I'm sorry. -It's fine.

-For the actors, they hear that clock ticking as much as anybody else.

-All right, guys, we're going to continue to rehearse from, 'This is our block.'

-You're scared because, you know, if you get it this far, like, you don't want to be the -- you want to finish the race, and you want to finish strong.

-Drinking a little Pedialyte 'cause I have a stomach flu, and I can't keep anything inside.

Yeah. It was both -- It was like both ends, and then we got that to stop.

And now it's only one end, but I haven't, like, eaten a meal meal in like three days.

It's gonna be great.

Okay. I'm going to go to the bathroom now.

-I'm, like, brain dead right now.

Um... Arm bands.

Here. This is how I go to war.

Knee brace, knee pad.

Ankle brace. [ Laughs ] ♪ -I just crashed for a second.

I need -- I need to conserve.

-I hope that this is the show that people say, 'Oh, that's Mandy Gonzalez from 'In the Heights.'' Like, I would love that to happen, you know, like, more than anything.

Every project that you do, if you do it right, you put everything that you have in it, you know?

You give it your heart.

And sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

-There have been moments over the course of this production where we literally didn't know what was going to come next.

-Running down a dream is -- it's a lot.

You know? I mean, it's tricky.

-This has been a very big part of my life, and it hasn't gone away for a reason.

And I just am kind of curious now to see just what that's going to be.

♪ [ Siren wails ] ♪ ♪ -Feels like I'm getting ready to get married.

-[ Laughs ] -You know what I mean?

It feels like wedding day almost, you know? Like... I have this tightness. -You're too close.

-Like something sitting on my chest right now.

I've had it since I woke up this morning.

That's that's the nerves. That's the nerve part of it.

It's crazy.

-I brought her here for her first audition.

I think she was 18.

And she and I came together. We had never been to New York.

It's always been her dream, and how do you stop that when somebody has a dream like that?

I mean, since the time you're a little kid and when she said, 'I'm -- you know, I got an audition. I got an audition.'

There was no way I could say no.

So, she and I just got on a plane and came.

-Yeah. -Yeah, and it was great.

[ Cellphone rings ] -Hi, baby.

Just eating chicken tenders and making mixes.

The whole thing is to sort of keep your head down and stay focused.

So, you know, cast gifts are great.

It's good to make mixes.

It's good to spend your day thinking about other people because otherwise, I don't.

Everyone I care about most in the world is going to be there today, so it's going to be quite a ride.

-All right babe. Good luck.

-I love you. -I love you, too.

♪ -You're not going anywhere, brother.

-He's mad. All right.

-Bye, man.

♪ 46th and Manhattan between Broadway and 8th.

Broadway opening!

I'm so excited.

-Baby. -Yeah?

Here are your tickets.

-Oh, my God.

I can't believe I got tickets to see the opening night tonight.

-You're going to see a play and stuff.

And look, there's party passes in there, too.

We're going to a party afterwards.

Can you even stand it?

-You know how to take a girl out.

-Oh, my God.

I told you I was going to show you the world.

♪ -God, what did I do right to, like -- to be here, you know?

You do a workshop, and then you hope.

'Oh I hope it goes.' And when it goes, 'I hope they take me.'

They did, and they've taken me all the way, and it's just, like -- It's a dream.

A dream come true.

-It's an amazing thing to, you know, actually know that you're in where you're supposed to be on your path.

You know what I mean? It's like a checkpoint.

Like, 'Damn, I'm actually here.'

-I'll see you tonight.

-Mm! -Mm. Thank you.

-I love you.

-See you later, alligator.

-It's not the destination, man.

This is all about the journey.

This is the jumping off point.

I love coming down this street 'cause you can see the sign at the theater.

-There's something with this show, with this cast, that we all just know in our hearts we were supposed to be here, and it's, like, so obvious.

Opening night.

-It's hard to sum up five and a half years of your life in one day.

-Opening night is so much about all of it.

It's about the finished product, but it's also about family and all the people that are with you along the way, you know?

-It's Christmas.

♪ -One of the girls in our cast asked us where we came from, like, our nationality, and as an opening night gift, she gave us little flags from all the countries that we're from.

And she says that we should hang our flags on display.

-I cannot believe this is opening night.

-I'm not going to be able to let it in till it's all over.

-Lets do this.

[ Cast whooping ] -This is our season.

It could last 15 years, but this is what all of it has been leading up to.

-...two, three.

-We are just so honored to be here and to be finally on Broadway opening night.

-You took something that was so beautiful and spectacular and made it spectacularly extraordinary.

So, congratulations, happy opening, and have fun.

-I thank you for everything, and they'll let us do it again on Tuesday, so let's have a great opening, and thank you guys for everything.

I want this to be... I don't know.

I just want this to be part of something, you know?

I want this to be those pages, that chapter.

I hope this is the beginning of something.

-I feel like it's commencement... -Yes.

-...because Lin, Tommy, Quiara, you're done writing 'In the Heights.'

Now we give 'In the Heights' to the world, and we make it spread and last and last and last.


[ Cheers and applause ] -It's like prom night with career ramifications.


Feel crazy like this is a big dream.

This is like the SATs for real.

This one means, like, everything, It sort of dictates where the rest of my life goes... as an artist, at least.

Yeah, a lot's riding on it, I guess.

Probably because I love it so much.

If I didn't care that much about it, I guess it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but it's kind of -- Yeah, it's pretty much everything.

What do you think? Over here?

♪ ♪ -Thanks a lot.

[ Indistinct chatter ] -Oh, it starts.

-[ Squeals ] ♪ Every time I do another project, it's like it's my chance to try and get it perfect, you know?

-All these people are here for us.

-Opening night on Broadway, baby.

-As artists, I think we're perfectionists, and we could drive ourselves to the ground, through the ground, and out the other side.

-And I now have 15 minutes to get ready.

After today, nothing's going to be the same.

-Dreams come true, bitches!

♪ -All right, yo. Don't embarrass me.

There sometime are those moments when you realize, 'This is it.'

♪ -There is so much of each of us in this show.

-♪ Oh, oh, oh, whoo ♪ -Higher. -Whoo!

-It's time.

-This is what God gives us to do.

This is what we do for a living 'cause God lets us do this.

Here we go.

-Yeah, let's do it. -Let's do it!

♪♪♪ -Stand by, guys. We're doing the real deal.

-Yo, I'm late.

♪♪♪ [ Radio tuning ] [ Dance music plays on stereo ] -Yo, that's my wall!

[ Cheers and applause ] [ Music stops ] ♪ You know when you're little and you're on a plane and you go by the clouds and they look so damn touchable and edible and you want to just touch those clouds and sort of see if you can sit in one?

I always had that fantasy when I was -- whenever I would fly to Puerto Rico.

I feel like I've pulled a cloud out of the sky, and I got to sit in it.

-♪ If I win the lottery ♪ ♪ You'll never see me again ♪ -♪ Damn, we only joking, stay broke, then ♪ [ Laughter ] -♪ I'll be downtown ♪ ♪ I'll get a nice studio ♪ ♪ I'll get out of the barrio ♪ ♪ For real, though, imagine how it would feel ♪ ♪ Going real slow ♪ ♪ Down the highway of life with no regrets ♪ ♪ And no breakin' your neck for respect or a paycheck ♪ -♪ I'll be downtown ♪ -♪ Yo, it's silly when we get ♪ ♪ Into these crazy hypotheticals ♪ ♪ You really want some bread? ♪ ♪ Then go ahead, create a set of goals ♪ ♪ And cross 'em off the list as you pursue 'em ♪ ♪ With those 96, I think precisely what I'm doing ♪ -♪ For real, though imagine how it would feel ♪ -♪ You really want some bread? ♪ ♪ Go ahead, create a set of goals ♪ ♪ Cross 'em off the list as you pursue 'em ♪ -♪ And no breakin' your neck for respect or a paycheck ♪ ♪ For real, though ♪ ♪ I'll take a break from the wheel ♪ ♪ And we'll throw the biggest block party ♪ ♪ Everybody here ♪ -♪ And with those 96, I think precisely what I'm doing ♪ -♪ A weekend when we can breathe, take it easy ♪ -♪ I know precisely what I'm doing, yo ♪ -♪ Whoa, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh ♪ -♪ Oh, yeah ♪ -♪ I'll be downtown ♪ -♪ Whoa, oh ♪ ♪ Whoa, oh ♪ -♪ We can pay off the debts we owe ♪ -♪ We could tell everyone we know ♪ -♪ I could get on a plane and go ♪ -♪ We be swimming in dough, yo ♪ ♪ No tip-toein' ♪ ♪ We'll get the dough and ♪ ♪ Once we get goin' ♪ ♪ We're never gonna ♪ -♪ Stop tip-toein' ♪ ♪ We'll get the dough and ♪ ♪ Once we get goin', we're never gonna ♪ -♪ 96,000 ♪ -♪ We'll get the dough and ♪ -♪ 96,000 ♪ -♪ Once we get goin' ♪ -♪ 96,000 ♪ -♪ We'll get the dough and ♪ ♪ Once we get goin' ♪ ♪ We're never gonna stop ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] ♪ ♪ -I've worked for seven years to get here, so I'm going to enjoy this as much I can.

And then the show will close or something will happen, and I'll go.

It's not every day that you write a part for yourself and people say, 'Yeah. That's great. Do it.'

♪ So, I'm trying to just enjoy that as much as I can.

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪ [ Cheers and applause continue ] [ Cheers and applause continue ] Forgive me for speaking slowly.

[ Laughter ] I don't ever want to forget this moment as long as I live.

[ Cheers and applause ] Ay, mama what do you do when your dreams come true?

[ Audience cheers ] Thank you. We're home. Goodnight.

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪ -We did it! -Whoo!

-Aah! -Hey!

♪ -There's no review from the but according to the theater, everybody loved it, so we'll see what happens.

Within the hour. [ Laughs ] All right, well you'll find me at the party, then, right?


-The terrifying thing about this business is it takes the wrong set of words that create a bad review, and that's it.

However many years of your life can be basically dismissed.

-'It has been lamented in certain circles that they don't make Broadway musical stars the way they used to, but the theater has not gone out of the star-making business entirely.

If you stroll down to the Richard Rodgers Theater where the spirited musical 'In the Heights' opened on Sunday night, you'll discover a singular new sensation.

Lin-Manuel Miranda'... [ Laughter ] ...'commanding a spotlight as if he were born in the wings.'

He was. -Oh, my God.

♪ -♪ The hydrants are open ♪ ♪ Cool breezes blow ♪ -It's still very strange to be here.

-'The energy it gives off could light up the George Washington Bridge for a year or two.'

-Oh, my God.

[ Laughter ] -All right! -This doesn't happen often.

You know that, right? -I don't know a lot.

I know enough to fully appreciate how fortunate we are.

-There are so many people working on this show that have created a family that's as closely knit as the community were portraying on stage.

-Cheers. -Cheers.

-It's amazing.

It almost feels like this show is kind of this magnet that these hearts get stuck to, and there's no letting go.

-♪ Be alone now ♪ -♪ There's a breeze off the Hudson ♪ ♪ And just when you think you're sick of living here ♪ ♪ The memory floods in ♪ -Lin has created all these people, and we're all part of this dream for him.

I knew it couldn't fail in whatever it wanted to be.

-You find people who want to work and do art, and that's going to make it last.

-11, 12. -13.

-13 Tony nominations.

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪ Yeah, I'm a streetlight chillin' in the heat ♪ ♪ I illuminate the stories of the people in the street ♪ ♪ Some have happy endings, some are bittersweet ♪ ♪ But I know them all ♪ ♪ And that's what makes my life complete ♪ -It reaffirms my faith in live theater.

-Whoo! -♪ Secret recipes ♪ -This is definitely the 'his dreams are coming true at an astonishing rate' chapter.

-Tony, homie! Whoo!

-It's crazy.

I mean, there's sort of a different reminder every night of how awesome your life has gotten.

-The 2008 Tony Award goes to 'In the Heights.'

-♪ But I ain't goin' back because I'm telling your story ♪ ♪ And I can say goodbye to you smilin' ♪ ♪ I found my island ♪ ♪ I been on it this whole time, I'm home ♪ -♪ We're home ♪ -♪ The hydrants are open ♪ ♪ Cool breezes blow ♪ -♪ It's a wonderful life that I've known ♪ ♪ Merry Christmas, you ol' savings and loan ♪ ♪ I'm home ♪ -♪ The hydrants are open ♪ ♪ Cool breezes blow ♪ -♪ Abuela, that ain't a stoop, that's your throne ♪ ♪ Long after ya birds have all flown ♪ ♪ I'm home ♪ ♪ Where the coffee's non-stop ♪ ♪ And I drop this hip-hop ♪ ♪ In my mom-and-pop shop ♪ -♪ We're home ♪ -♪ I'm home ♪ ♪ Where people come, people go ♪ ♪ Let me show all of these people what I know ♪ ♪ There's no place like home ♪ ♪ And let me set the record straight ♪ ♪ I'm steppin' to Vanessa, I'm gettin' a second date ♪ ♪ I'm home ♪ -♪ Home ♪ -♪ Where it's 100 in the shade ♪ ♪ But with patience and faith, we remain unafraid ♪ ♪ I'm home ♪ ♪ You hear that music in the air? ♪ ♪ Take the train to the top of the world ♪ ♪ And I'm there, I'm home ♪ -♪ Ho-o-o-o-o-o-me ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit

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