BWW Review: IN THE HEIGHTS at The Engeman
When I attended the Broadway incarnation of In the Heights, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Accordingly, when they announced their current season, I had the utmost confidence that the showing at the gorgeous John W. Engeman Theatre was going to be just as stellar. Being The Engeman, I was proven right. The wonderful production runs through April 29th at the Northport venue masterfully directed by Paul Stancato.
The Best Musical Tony winner, conceived and scored by multiple Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda with the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, tells the tale about the historic Washington Heights community in New York City. Explored are the people, the 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.
Excellently leading the cast as bodega owner Usnavi - Mr. Miranda's role from the Broadway showing - is Spiro Marcos in his Engeman début. Mr. Marcos receives roaring applause and laughs for his natural wit and first-rate renditions of "96,000" and the show's title number with the company. Also, Mr. Marcos' performance of "Hundreds Of Stories" with Tami Dahbura, portraying Abuela Claudia, the town grandmother, is truly endearing and an audience favorite.
Also a highlight among the amazing cast (and in another Engeman début) is Cherry Torres who is terrific as Nina, a college student who has returned to the neighborhood. Nina's passion to make sure she makes her parents proud, yet standing up for herself under the pressure, is relatable and Ms. Torres delivers admirably. Also enjoyable is Iliana Garcia - in yet another Engeman début - as salon worker Carla. Carla is a sweet and well-meaning woman, but, shall we say, a little slow and Ms. Garcia brings many laughs in addition to being a stand-out in many of the dance numbers.
In truth, I could go on and on about the brilliant cast, but I'll sum up by saying that I could possibly see several of them in the Broadway production had it run longer.
On the creative team, the set, designed by Christopher Ash, is stunning and seemingly captures well the spirit of the Washington Heights community. Usnavi's bodega, the salon, and the car service that Nina's father owns are included as well as fire escapes above the bodega and car service. This is enhanced beautifully by John Burkland's lighting design and Christopher Vergara's costume design. Sandalio Alvarez's choreography is also top-notch and well accompanies the score filled with hip-hop, salsa, merengue, and reggaeton which is performed by a thrilling live orchestra headed up by Music Director Alec Bart.
And so, In the Heights at The John W. Engeman Theatre 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 John W. Engeman Theatre of Northport, Long Island, through April 29th. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (631) 261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com
Score by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, Produced by Richard Dolce, Directed by Paul Stancato (Engeman Theater: Grease, Jekyll & Hyde, Sound of Music, Hairspray; Broadway: The Wedding Singer (Asst. Choreo.), The Lion King (Res. Director); National Tours: Flashdance, Jekyll & Hyde, The Wedding Singer), Choreography by Sandalio Alvarez (Broadway/National Tour: The Lion King, In the Heights; Regional: ALLIANCE THEATRE (Atlanta), Walnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia), Bristol Riverside Theater (Bristol, PA); TV: "Emmy Awards," "The Tony Awards," "The Latino Heritage Awards," "The Lopez Show," "The Today Show," and "So You Think You Can Dance"), Musical Direction by Alec Bart (Engeman: Grease, Gypsy; Broadway: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (Sub); Las Vegas: Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, ShowStoppers, Duck Commander Musical, Mannheim Steamroller, Camp Broadway; Tours: 42nd Street, Cabaret), Associate Director is Dana Iannuzzi (Engeman Theater: Grease, Jekyll & Hyde; National/International Tour: Flashdance; NYC: ICON, The Cobalteans, Divided), Scenic Design by Christopher Ash, Costume Design by Christopher Vergara, Lighting Design by John Burkland, Sound Design by Don Hanna, Casting by WOJCIK/SEAY Casting, Prop Design by Suzanne Mason, Stage Management by Laura Krouch & Leila Scandar (Assistant Stage Manager).
Starring Spiro Marcos (New York: Junk (A Rock Opera); Regional: Spring Awakening, Tick, tick...BOOM!, Last Five Years at ReVision Theater, Altar Boyz at Gateway Playhouse), Josh Marin (Theater: Spring Awakening, The Wild Party, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety, The Color Purple, Violet; Film: Steven Spielberg's Lincoln), Cherry Torres (Regional: Rock of Ages at Drury Lane Theater, Trav'lin: A 1930s Harlem Musical at Seven Angels Theater, Smokey Joe's Café at the Palace Theater and Disney's Believe on Disney Cruise Line), Chiara Trentalange (Regional: In the Heights at Geva Theatre, The Marvelous Wonderettes at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Anything Goes at Goodspeed Opera House, A Chorus Line at Interlakes Theatre, Grease at Forestburgh Playhouse), Paul Aguirre, Tami Dahbura, Shadia Fairuz, Iliana Garcia, Danny Lopez, Nick Martinez, Vincent Ortega, and Scheherazade Quiroga with Jordan Chin, Karma Jenkins, Darius Jordan Lee, Delaney Love, Krystal Mackie, Bryan Ernesto Menjivar, Belin Moyano, Jovany Ramirez, and Magdalena Rodriguez
Photo by Michael DeCristofaro