WPCNR ON THE AISLE. Theatrical Review by John F. Bailey. February 25, 2013 UPDATED FEBRUARY 28, 2013:
In the Heights. The in-your-face, infatuating, indefatigable, intense celebration of life on the edge in the barrio that took over Broadway in 2008, winning four Tonys , nine Drama Desk Nominations, has taken over Westchester Broadway Theatre energizing a stunned audience with non-stop rhythms, overflowing fiery emotions and relentlessly appealing cast. You want young talent winning your heart this is your baby!
After its first two weeks, Westchester Broadway Theatre has announced today all shows have been sold out, and the run of In The Heights has been extended three weeks, through April 7
From the most creative set WBT has seen in years that gets 182nd Street-ambience absolutely right to the seductive body-swaying rhythms of this most original show, Mr. and Mrs. Westchester should be prepared for a relentless evening of young and spirited performers giving their all.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original music and lyrics with Quiara Alegria Hudes' breezy, clever, edgy book celebrates the coming of significance of the New York City Washington Heights neighborhood, which I can tell from personal experience teams with life, rhythm, ambition, spirit and drive that Mr. Miranda captures in his emotional-connective songs that anyone of any nationality will bond with. It’s a neighborhood where everyone knows each other and pulls for one another.
Vanessa (Gizel Jimenez) has her eye on Usnavi (Perry Young).
All photos, Courtesy WBT by John Vecchiola
You meet the comic, ingratiating Usnavi (Perry Young from the ITH national tour), the street-savvy owner of the corner bodega. He introduces the show with a fast-talking rap, and introduces you to all the personalities: Nina (the conflicted fiery soprano, Arielle Jacobs) just back from Stanford, where the neighborhood thinks she is going to college but she struggled there as she relates plaintively with shimmering anxiety of disappointment in herself in Breathe.
We meet Vanessa (Gizel Jimenez) who just has to get an apartment out of The Heights,as she explains in It Won’t Be Long Now to Usnavi who does not want her to go.
There’s Benny (Fatye) the kid Nina’s father Kevin (Benjamin Perez) taught him to drive for his cab company, but does not want Benny for a son-in-law. Here Fatye duets with Arielle Jacobs (Nina) on When the Sun Goes Down
Then we meet the grandmother of the neighborhood, Abuela Claudia (played winningly by Christina Aranda) . Ms. Aranda’s solo Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith) does not leave a dry eye in the house at the close of the first act. She is everybody’s grandmother, matriarch, loyal fan of her grandchild Usnavi and she simply wins over the audience’s collective hearts.
From the hairdressers’ to Usnavi’s bodega, to Kevin’s Taxi Stand, the rhythms, and I do mean rhythms catch you up in the sheer aliveness of this burgeoning culture unique to the city simmering with the conflict of the older generation with the new. Whether Hispanic or Anglo-Saxon, the conflicts all families face are in this one.
There is Nina’s agonized return to the neighborhood, feeling she has let down her parents and the neighborhood by dropping out of Stanford due to not enough money to buy books, and supporting herself in a way we do not quite get as clear.
Kevin her father, when he finds out, is furious. His big number, Inutile (Useless) is a ballad every father who has a daughter will identify with and feel. Benjamin Perez slows this number down and gives you the heartbreak inside him you can feel. He is even more put out that Nina and Benny have fallen for each other. Kevin attempts to sell his cab business to get the money for Nina to go back to Stanford.
When a blackout causes unbearable inconvenience and rioting in the heights, conflict flares up. Camila, Nina’s mother, distraught by the estrangement between her husband Kevin and their daughter Nina, puts a stop to the unpleasantness with her solo Enough in Act Two. When Kevin’s store is damaged during a vandalism rampage, he attempts to leave the barrio, only to have a miracle of his grandmother’s spirit provide a way for him to stay. And, yes, the romances do work out.
Voltaire Wade-Greene as Graffiti Pete is a consistant comic presence through delivering very funny one-liners. Ariana Valdes counters Wade-Greene’s comic relief as the imperial owner of a hairdressers strutting and dissing the gossip in the neighborhood.
The choreography is varied and winning and the music upbeat, latin and loud. The dialogue and singing has to be carefully listened to lest you miss a clever turn of phrase. It’s an Upper West Side Story, it’s Grease with a Salsa beat, it’s the compulsion of first love. It’s parental concern. It’s brash. It’s colorful. It’s filled with feelings. You’ll go out feeling the sense of community, family and spirit of a musical that urges all who see it to seize life and give it all you’ve got.
In The Heights is produced by Standing Ovation Studios, Executive Producers Sheldon and Mennie Mallah, and John and Nannette Fanelli, producers. John Fanelli directed, and he has put together a raucous celebration of a production that introduces and captures a way of life.
This is a show where the audience has to work as hard as the performers because they are throwing a lot of sensory challenges to hear, absorb,process and feel a palette of emotions, an upper west side intersection of plot lines. There is light profanity, but this is New York City!
Call ((914) 592-2222, or visit the Westchester Broadway Theatre website, www.BroadwayTheatre.com for showtimes. You can experience In The Heights through March 17.
The fans and critics have spoken! The Standing Ovation Studio presentation of In the Heights sold-out 35 performances in record time. WBT announced Thursday that 17 new performances have been added to the shows schedule. If you missed the opportunity to purchase tickets last time, this is your chance to see this performance. The show now runs Through April 7, 2013. Special Prices for this Show ONLY!
call the box office at 914-592-2222.