IN THE HEIGHTS at The Engeman
By Melissa Giordano
March 21, 2018
When I attended the Broadway incarnation of In the Heights, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Accordingly, when they announced their current season, I had the utmost confidence that the showing at the gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre was going to be just as stellar. Being The Engeman, I was proven right. The wonderful production runs through April 29th at the Northport venue masterfully directed by Paul Stancato.
The Best Musical Tony winner, conceived and scored by multiple Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, tells the tale about the historic Washington Heights community in New York City. Explored are the people, the culture, and what it is like to live in the area. Several stories weave throughout the show that, at its heart, is about people simply trying to navigate life.
Excellently leading the cast as bodega owner Usnavi – Mr. Miranda’s role from the Broadway showing – is Spiro Marcos in his Engeman début. Mr. Marcos receives roaring applause and laughs for his natural wit and first-rate renditions of “96,000” and the show’s title number with the company. Also, Mr. Marcos’ performance of “Hundreds Of Stories” with Tami Dahbura, portraying Abuela Claudia, the town grandmother, is truly endearing and an audience favorite.
Also a highlight among the amazing cast (and in another Engeman début) is Cherry Torres who is terrific as Nina, a college student who has returned to the neighborhood. Nina’s passion to make sure she makes her parents proud, yet standing up for herself under the pressure, is relatable and Ms. Torres delivers admirably. Also enjoyable is Iliana Garcia – in yet another Engeman début – as salon worker Carla. Carla is a sweet and well-meaning woman, but, shall we say, a little slow and Ms. Garcia brings many laughs in addition to being a stand-out in many of the dance numbers.
In truth, I could go on and on about the brilliant cast, but I’ll sum up by saying that I could possibly see several of them in the Broadway production had it run longer.
On the creative team, the set, designed by Christopher Ash, is stunning and seemingly captures well the spirit of the Washington Heights community. Usnavi’s bodega, the salon, and the car service that Nina’s father owns are included as well as fire escapes above the bodega and car service. This is enhanced beautifully by John Burkland‘s lighting design and Christopher Vergara‘s costume design. Sandalio Alvarez’s choreography is also top-notch and well accompanies the score filled with hip-hop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton which is performed by a thrilling live orchestra headed up by Music Director Alec Bart.
And so, In the Heights at The John W. Engeman Theatre is incredibly entertaining with an absolutely remarkable cast. This heartfelt story and well executed show make for a thrilling night of theatre.