BWW Review: IN THE HEIGHTS at Stagecrafters Entertains and Delights!
In the Heights is the show that Lin-Manuel Miranda created before his record breaking musical, Hamilton, but is also an award-winning musical all on its own, long before he thought about founding fathers rapping about the formation our country. It earned 13 Tony Award nominations and won five, including Best Musical. The cast recording won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album and the show itself was nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Similar to how Miranda wrote and starred in Hamilton, he did the same with In the Heights in the title role of Usnavi. The show takes places in the city of Washington Heights, New York. The community is a very tight knight group who treat each other like family, even when they are not related by blood. And where they live, nothing is a secret, not even when someone wants it to be, especially with the hysterical salon girls who know all the gossip on the street! Most importantly, they are a community; they are family; and they are there when it matters most.
Gary LaKind plays the role of Usnavi. LaKind tackles the challenging role marvelously. Instead of copying Miranda's creation of Usnavi, LaKind went on to construct his own version him, but still keeps the character true to the original idea. He is energetic, honest, endearing, and a bright light to watch on stage because it is easy to see how much fun he has when he is performing.
Arielle Crosby plays the role of Vanessa. If Crosby had to be described in one word, it would be: powerhouse. This girl is a force to be reckoned with when she is on stage because the audience cannot help but watch her. When she sings, every emotion is felt to the very core of the crowd. Her solo in "96,000" is a highlight in the show as is the song, "It Won't Be Long Now," with LaKind and Ethan Tolentino (Sonny).
Madelynn Guerra plays the role of Nina. Guerra has a gorgeous voice that just keeps impressing as the show goes on. "Everything I Know" is one of the most beautiful moments of the show. Guerra has wonderful chemistry with Dyrel Johnson (Benny) and the two of them have some of the best duets in the show such as "Sunrise."
Stacey Barrett plays the role of Daniela and Casandra Delgado plays the role of Carla. It is impossible to discuss one without the other because these two ladies are pure comedic genius during the show, although Tolentino in his role of Sonny would be their equal in a male comedic genius of the show. When these actors are on stage, the audience is laughing, but the best part is, they are also talented singers and impressive dancers as well.
A quick mention should be made of Rachel Latimer who plays the role of ensemble member/Woman 1/Yolanda. Her dancing and skills stood out during the show. She is definitely one to watch!
If the show description and talented cast has not been convincing enough to make a person want to attend, then the amazing set by Mark Clark should be. These are some of the most exquisite and detailed sets this reviewer has seen for a show that was not part of a Broadway production in New York City or national touring one. The vibrant colors, the little details, and the magic that appeared unexpectedly just added to the show to make it that much better of an experience!
In the Heights is unlike any other show out there as it infuses Latin and hip-hop while it tells the story of a Latino-American neighborhood of New York's Washington Heights. Filled with lots of love, laughter, and maybe even some tears, it is a musical that will entertain and delight anyone who attends.
In the Heights is currently running through February 12th at Stagecrafters in Royal Oak. For more information or tickets, visit www.stagecrafters.org.
Photo Credit: Lance Luce