Tuesday, September 19, 2017

In the Heights at the Ordway

As we may have mentioned, we love Lin-Manuel Miranda's first Broadway show, In the Heights. Why I Love In the Heights (and you should, too)

So we were excited when the show was announced as one of this season's Ordway Originals. And it's finally here!

A little background for those who may not have heard of the immensely talented Mr. Miranda. He's got a little show on Broadway (and in Chicago, and Los Angeles, soon to be touring the United States and opening on London's West End) called Hamilton. Before writing the Tony-winning, Pulitzer Prize-winning hip hop musical about the founding of the United States, Miranda penned and starred in In the Heights. If you are a Hamilfan, you really should see this show.

Debra Cardona and Justin Gregory Lopez as
Abuela Claudia and Usnavi (photo: Rich Ryan)

In the Heights is an original story, not based on a movie or a book, but on the lives of ordinary people living and working in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Washington Heights at the north end of Manhattan. As gentrification spreads north, rising rents mean changes for everyone in the neighborhood.

The Ordway's coproduction with Teatro del Pueblo, directed and choreographed by James Rocco and Alberto Justiniano, brings this community to vibrant life for an all-too-brief run (ending September 24). The cast is excellent, with Justin Gregory Lopez leading the ensemble as Usnavi, the role originated by Lin-Manuel Miranda on Broadway. Lopez, seen in last year's Ordway production of Paint Your Wagon, has the perfect blend of bravado and sweetness. Val Nuccio nails the beauty and personality of Usnavi's crush, Vanessa. The whole cast is wonderful, and it was delightful to see Lauren Villegas, recently Jesus Christ Superstar's Mary Magdalene, in a completely different role as the outspoken salon owner, Daniela. Stephen Scott Wormley as Benny and Debra Cardona as Abuela Claudia have great voices and presence.

The cast of In the Heights (photo: Rich Ryan)
The excellent nine-member orchestra keeps the music moving, and there is some terrifically energetic dancing, most impressively from Brian Bose as Graffiti Pete. With a compelling array of characters and plotlines, In the Heights is a joyous celebration of life, love, and community that makes you think about the true meaning of home.