[artist id="2492851"]Corbin Bleu[/artist] might not be a singing Wildcat anymore, but these days, the “High School Musical” star is taking his skills from the halls of East High to the streets of New York for his Broadway debut in the Tony-winning play “In the Heights.” The New York native admits that he couldn’t help but relate to the show’s lead character, whom he will play starting Monday (January 25).
“I play a character named Usnavi, who is the local bodega owner,” he told MTV News while rehearsing for the show. “So it’s the hub of the entire community. He is faced with thinking, ‘Is this what I really want — the monotony of life?’ But in the end, he realizes he has a wonderful life.”
Bleu isn’t new to the world of musicals, but the role does require him to do a little rapping. “The music in it and the dancing isn’t something you get to see a lot on Broadway,” he said, referencing the show’s hip-hop and Latin influences. “[Usnavi] raps. He also is the narrator, and throughout the whole time, he [narrates] through rapping off the top of his head. He’s a total dork. He doesn’t really know how to dance. He’s not very smooth when it comes to the ladies. There’s a certain honesty to him.”
Luckily for Bleu, the music makes the rapping thing come a lot more naturally. “Honestly, the music itself gives way to the rapping. That was something that came pretty easily, ’cause I’ve always been about rhythm. I grew up salsa dancing. I grew up dancing, period,” he explained. “That part of it came naturally.”
It should also be easy to play Usnavi because, like him, he grew up in New York. “I grew up in Brooklyn around all Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, so we were the only Italians on the block. I grew up eating [the cuisine]. I grew up with these characters, so it’s a very real thing for me,” he said. “I don’t think there could be a better show to make a Broadway debut in than ‘In the Heights.’ “