In The Heights Soars At SpeakEasy Stage
The Importance of Chasing Dreams & Finding Yourself
By: Mark Favermann - May 11, 2013
In The Heights
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Directed by Paul Daigneault, Musical Direction by Nicholas James Connell, Choreography by Larry Sousa, Lighting Design By Karen Perlow, Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland Lord, Sound Design by Eric Norris and Costume Design by Elisabetetta Polito.
Anthony Alfaro (Piragua Guy), Jorge Barranco (Sonny), Christian Denzel Bufford (Ensemble), Tony Castellanos (Kevin), Sarah Crane (Ensemble), Lauren Csete (Ensemble), Jared Dixon (Benny), Merissa Haddad (Daniela), Sean Jones (Graffiti Pete), Diego Klock-Perez (Usnavi), Jasmine Knight (Carla), Melanie Porras (Ensemble), Chris Ramirez (Ensemble), Adrian Ruiz (Ensemble), Nicole Paloma Sarro (Camila), Carolyn Saxon(Abuela Claudia), Santina Umbach (Nina) and Alessandro Valea (Vanessa).
The Calderwood Pavillion
Boston Center for the Arts
539 Tremont Street, Boston
May 10 – June 16, 2013
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission
Set in a Washington Heights neighborhood, In The Heights speaks to the American Dream from a distinctively Hispanic perspective. It wonderfully underscores the notion of our universal multi-ethnic, multinational American immigrant experience.
In the Heights is a sweet story. With a very talented large cast, the narrative centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door who raised him.
He pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon while dreaming of his escape by winning the lottery. He wants to return to his native Dominican Republic.
Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with shocking news for her parents. They have spent their life savings on helping their daughter to build a better life.
There are love affairs, economic woes and changing neighborhood real estate as well. This is a multiethnic Hispanic neighborhood with heart and soul. Humor is used to soften the pain of life's predictable and unpredictable difficulties.
All of the singing and dancing is first rate. Though not easy to portray, each performer was an individual not a sterotype. There were several standout performances from an outstanding cast. Starting with Diego Klock-Peres's Usnavi, each actor had his own voice. You could feel his personal frustration being chained to his family's bodega. His singing and dancing were great as well. Carolyn Saxon's Abuela Claudia was everyone's grandmother except she could really belt out a tune.
Alessandro Valea was beautiful as the vibrant and sexy Vanessa. Her voice and looks could be show-stoppers. Talented Jorge Barranco's Sonny was funny, adolescent and yet wholly believable, Jared Dixon's Benny was at once strong yet fragile, while Nina (Santina Umbach) was on the edge as to who she was and to what she should do. Her father, Tony Castellanos as Kevin, was realistically nuanced.
Marissa Haddad's Daniela was a powerful spitefire of Latin sensuality. The rest of the ensemble could sing and dance the night away with spice and salsa.
Everything seemed to flow in this show. The direction by Paul Daigneault had an ease to it that made the dance and music seem intertwined. Musical direction by Nicholas James Connell and choreography by Larry Sousa were an excellent and seamless collaboration.
Karen Perlow's usual quality lighting design punctuated the performances, while the scenic design by Jenna McFarland Lord set a transitional evironment of neighborhood bodega, taxi stand and beauty salon.
This was much the Latin operetta. Music and dance expressed emotion, drama and romance for In The Heights.
In a way, In The Heights is an anti-West Side Story. It is not about acting out violently but trying to act communally and lovingly. This show is about the notion of family and what that means through bloodlines as well as environment and simply goodness of the heart. It is a humble but vibrant celebration of the American Dream. A sweet musical that has a great Latin beat, In The Heights is a wonderfully melodious way to have spent two hours.