In the Heights
By Kristen Weyer
March 20, 2018
If you’re looking for a way to escape the cold then look no further than the John W. Engeman Theater. The current production of In The Heights is a surefire way to bring warmth and excitement to your day. This Tony Award winner for Best Musical boasts a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, and music and lyrics by…wait for it, Lin-Manuel Miranda! Yes, of Hamilton fame. Filled with the sound and soul of Latin music this incredible score is a brilliant blend of salsa, merengue and hip-hop combined with the format of musical theater we all know and love. It’s hypnotic and intoxicating, and just pure fun.
Even if hip-hop isn’t usually your cup of tea, do not under any circumstances, be dissuaded from attending. Trust me, it’s not my first musical choice either, but somehow this show makes it appealing and wonderful. The intricate, and even amusing lyrics, combine effortlessly with the characters and mood so that the music almost feels like a physical embodiment of the setting. It’s impressive as well. The flawless verbal gymnastics performed by Spiro Marcos as Usnavi are simply breathtaking.
The steam is rising off the concrete on a sweltering hot 4th of July in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. Change is upon the residents, and while some desire it, others find it difficult, hearts are broken and mended, dreams crash and burn and rise again. We the audience follow along through the three transformative days in our characters’ lives.
This production is phenomenal. From the authentic look of the set by Christopher Ash, to the amazing vocals performed by the entire cast, In The Heights was a delight from start to finish. The insane talent of this cast cannot be stressed enough. Not only were their voices and dancing superb, but they all make you care about their characters as well. The two couples in this show both had excellent chemistry and you’ll find yourself rooting for both of them from the start: Spiro Marcos and Chiara Trentalange, as Usnavi and Vanessa; Josh Marin and Cherry Torres, as Benny and Nina. They are sweet and charming, funny and endearing, and real. Trentalange and Torres both have incredible powerhouse vocals which take over the stage with magical precision. Another vocal stunner is Tami Dahbura as Abuela Claudia, and Marin’s clear and resonant tones are not quickly forgotten.
There is also plenty of comedy, and Nick Martinez as Sonny, Scheherazade Quiroga as Daniela and Iliana Garcia as Carla deliver marvelously. Not to be overlooked are Paul Aguirre and Shadia Fairuz as Nina’s parents, and the entirety of the cast. Of course the musical talent of the orchestra under direction from Alec Bart was on masterful display.
When I first sat down to In The Heights I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. Not only did this production meet my expectations, it blew them away. By any means possible see this show!