Jeff Christensen, Associated Press
The cast of "In the Heights" performs during the Tony Awards in New York on Sunday. Ratings for the telecast were not good.

I was surprised to hear my CD player playing rap. I looked at it, paused, picked up the case for "In the Heights," the new king of Broadway (winning best musical at Sunday's Tonys), and I quickly began scanning the titles.

"This is a musical? ... It's rap ... this isn't music." I felt a little frantic.

Then the brass kicked in. Without even thinking, I was moving my hips (at least, trying) and bopping my head, and I had this urge to get up and move.

"In the Heights," based on the childhood of creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, is different from anything you've heard — at least on Broadway. It's sort of "Rent" meets "West Side Story" or ... I'm trying to come up with composer comparisons, but I'm lacking in the rap category and can only think of Vanilla Ice — which I'm sure is the wrong comparison to make.

At any rate, it's part rap, part salsa, part who knows what else. There are some beautiful melodies, as well as great harmonies, and I can't help but think this might become a favorite soundtrack for working out or cleaning the house. It's upbeat, fun and all about family, neighborhood and home.

What does this mean for the future of the Broadway musical? Will there be a day when an entire show/soundtrack is all rap music? Should that be considered a musical? "In the Heights" certainly has enough music to qualify, but there is a fair amount of rap.

How far we've come. Broadway, home to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Berlin and Kern has taken on a whole new persona.

This year's best musical picks, in addition to "In the Heights," were "Passing Strange," a production that, though original, features music that is a far stretch from the 30-piece orchestras of the golden age; "Xanadu," a campy send-up to the truly terrible roller-skating movie of the same name; and "Cry Baby," a less successful attempt (it closes today) at turning another John Waters movie into a stage hit, like "Hairspray."

What a change. Will we be losing the soaring melodies that make Broadway special? That has always been what draws me to musical theater — the music is so singable.

For now, with lyrics in in front of me, I try my hand at rapping "In the Heights."

Lights up on Washington Heights, up at the break of Day

My poor husband — the only thing more ridiculous than my hip-moving is this lame attempt at rapping. But I bet if you pick up "In the Heights," you'll be rapping, too.

Low ratings: Much to my dismay, again, the Tony telecast didn't do so well in the ratings. Last year's broadcast hit a record low (just 5.7 million people watched in 2007, according to Nielsen Co.) as it went head-to-head with the finale of "The Sopranos." Ratings were up a bit this year, which is good. I realize the appeal of the Tonys is limited, since many haven't seen the shows, but I'll be really disappointed if networks decide it's not worth airing.

So long, Cyd: This was one of the few times I've heard a celebrity has died and actually verbally said, "Ohhh ..." Cyd Charisse was absolutely amazing with her sassy dark hair, incredible legs and phenomenal dancing. I've always loved her. I thought about naming our baby girl Cyd, but I thought Cyd Hansen sounded more like Sid Hansen ... and therefore some burly tow-truck driver.

Charisse made her Broadway debut at the age of 70 with Tommy Tune in "Grand Hotel." Fred Astaire said it best, "That Cyd! When you've danced with her, you stay danced with!"


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