We know, we know: Corbin Bleu — the new star of the Tony-winning Latino-in-Manhattan musical In the Heights — is not Latino. He’s Jamaican-American and Italian-American. And he’s a Disney commodity, famous for playing Zac Efron’s BFF in the High School Musical movies (which probably irks some people even more than the whole ethnicity issue). But if creator-composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda gave Bleu his blessing to play Dominican-born bodega owner Usnavi — a role Miranda originated — why dwell on a casting technicality? Especially when Bleu is so gosh-darn charming. He sings, dances, and raps with ease — and, most importantly, he looks like the kind of guy who checks in on his aged abuela (Olga Merediz) five or six times a day.
Heights isn’t what you’d call a hard-hitting musical: In the opening number, Usnavi spends some eight minutes dispensing café con leche, lottery tickets, and subway directions. But it’s our first look at Anna Louizos’ shabby-chic set, and Andy Blankenbuehler’s modern dance-meets-MTV choreography. And it’s our first taste of Miranda’s eclectic score, an irresistible fusion of salsa, hip-hop, jazz, and good old-fashioned Broadway razzmatazz. Those first eight minutes tell us exactly what Heights is — an irresistible, unapologetic good time. B+
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 877-250-2929)