IN THE HEIGHTS Opens Tonight at Adrian's Croswell Opera House
"In the Heights" was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Broadway hit "Hamilton." Miranda started writing "In the Heights" while studying at Wesleyan University and later revised it for Broadway. The musical is set in the largely Dominican-American neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City, where Miranda was born.
Jonathan Tobar of Adrian plays the lead character, Usnavi De La Vega, who owns a bodega in Washington Heights and whose parents moved from the Dominican Republic to New York when he was a baby.
Tobar, whose family immigrated from Ecuador when he was 9, said he connects personally with many of the themes in the story, such as having one foot in two different cultures and figuring out how to continue old family traditions in a new country. Throughout the show, Usnavi debates whether to return to the Dominican Republic or continue making a life for himself in Washington Heights.
"It's the story of a group of immigrants from different parts of the Latin American world who have come together in this community of Washington Heights, and they are now each other's family," Tobar said.
The show's music reflects the diversity of the community where it is set.
"It's all told through an amazing mixture of Latin styles, like salsa and merengue, with some rap and hip-hop, and some classical Broadway styles as well," Tobar said.
Another character who's caught between two worlds is Nina Rosario, a first-generation college student who struggles with the fear of letting down the people who supported her. Played by Alaina Herrera Kerr of Jackson, Nina returns home at the beginning of the show, and her struggle plays out alongside Usnavi's as the story unfolds.
John Bacarella of Monroe and Lydia Schafer of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, play Nina's parents, Kevin and Camila Rosario, who own a taxi and limousine service in Washington Heights. Derrick Jordan of Toledo plays Benny, an employee of the Rosarios who has feelings for Nina. Katelyn Lesle of Maumee plays Vanessa, Usnavi's love interest, who wants nothing more than to leave Washington Heights and move downtown.
Carissa Villanueva of Adrian plays Daniela, the owner of the neighborhood salon where Vanessa works. Libby Garno of Adrian, who is also the show's choreographer, plays Carla, Daniela's friend and employee.
Melissa Paschall of Jackson plays the matriarch of the community, Claudia, known to her neighbors simply as Abuela, which means grandmother. Rounding out the neighborhood are Anthony Contreras of Adrian as Usnavi's young cousin, Sonny; C.J. Mathis of Adrian as a graffiti artist named Pete; Rudy Gonzalez of Monroe as a shaved-ice vendor; and Zachary Flack of Chesterfield as a would-be ladies' man named Jose.
The ensemble includes Brock Boze, Emily Kapnick, Nik Owen, Payton Perry-Radcliffe, Mercedes Polley, Hannah Rowe, Xavier Sarabia, Tyaira Smith Adamson and Gabriella Terrones, all of Adrian; Breah Duschl and Emily Ialacci, both of Temperance; Lauren DePorre, Morgan McConnell and Michael Rywalski, all of Toledo; and Leigh Christopher of Vermontville.
The show is directed by Deb Calabrese, with music direction by Dave Rains.
The Broadway production of "In the Heights" was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2008 and won four, including Best Musical.
"In the Heights" runs from July 14-16 and July 21-23, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m. The Croswell is at 129 E. Maumee St., Adrian. Tickets range from $15 to $35 and may be ordered online at croswell.org/intheheights.