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BWW Review: IN THE HEIGHTS at CMPAC

When I attended In the Heights on Broadway, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Accordingly, I had the upmost confidence that the incarnation at The Noel Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center (CMPAC) was going to be just as stellar; and it is. The wonderful production runs through February 7th at the Long Island venue.

The musical, conceived and scored by Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda with a book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, tells the tale about the historic Washington Heights community in New York City. Explored are the people, 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.

Michael Mehmet splendidly directs the outstanding cast filled with CMPAC vets with some newbies mixed in.

Joseph Gonzalez leads as Usnavi (Mr. Miranda's role from Broadway), the tale's narrator and main character who dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic where he was born. In a strong New York debut, the talented Florida native is truly delightful in the role. It is apparent he is enjoying his time in the show and doesn't miss a beat reiterating the hip-hop score.

Also part of the cast is Leyland Patrick who portrays Usnavi's friend Benny. Mr. Patrick's take on the role is quite clever as you'll sense a smooth, R&B vibe from him. Benny works at the limo service next to the bodega that Usnavi runs with his cousin, Sonny, portrayed adorably by Luke Rosario.

The women in the cast are incredibly strong as well.

Portraying Usnavi's love interest, Vanessa (Karen Olivo's role from Broadway), is Samantha Rosario and Nina, Benny's girlfriend, is portrayed by Gina Morgigno. They are both absolutely exquisite in their respective roles. And, you will absolutely love the sass that Erica Giglio and Christine Martinez bring as salon owners Daniela and Carla. Their rendition of "No Me Diga" is, indeed, an audience favorite. In addition, you must also have an extraordinary actress to portray Abuela Claudia, the town grandmother. Ariana Valdes recreates her BWW Regional Award winning role and yet again delivers a top notch performance. Her rendition of "Paciencia Y Fe" is truly one of the strongest numbers of the production.

As for Mr. Mehmet's creative team, Jen Hocker creates the gorgeous set that is enhanced beautifully by Alison Weinberger lighting design and Ronald R. Green's stunning costumes. Additionally, Anthony Brindisi superbly conducts the live orchestra as Music Director.

And so, In the Heights at The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CMPAC is incredibly entertaining with an absolutely remarkable cast. This heartfelt story and well executed show make for a thrilling night of theatre.

In The Heights is presented by the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, Long Island, through February 7th.

Conceived and scored by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Directed by Michael Mehmet, Musical Direction by Anthony Brindisi, Choreography by M.E. Junge, Stage Management by Amanda Wenchel, Set Design by Jen Hocker, Sound Design by Jennifer Miller, Lighting Design by Alison Weinberger, Costume Design by Ronald R. Green III

Starring Joseph Gonzalez, Luke Rosario, Leyland Patrick, Samantha Rosario, Gina Morgigno, Christine Martinez, Erica Giglio, Kyle Petty, Charlie Rivera, Lori Beth Belkin, Paul Edme, Ariana Valdes, Kin-zale Jackson, Alex Esquivel, Edward Martinez, Michelle LaBozzetta, Tori Lewis, Matthew Kadam, Savannah Beckford, Liza Aquilino

Photo by Lisa Schindlar; Joseph Gonzalez and Ariana Valdes in In The Heights



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