Wednesday October 18th 2017

“In The Heights”

For those of you who missed the previous run of “In The Heights”, winner of four Tony Awards in 2008 and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, you get another chance as Broadway In Chicago presents a limited run, new “raod tour” production at the Oriental Theatre this week. While the story is about a section of New York inhabited by Dominicans and Puerto Ricans and shows their fight for survival, it could have been any ethnic group’s struggles from earlier time periods. Every group that made the trip to the United States endured many of the same struggles- trying to give their families a better life than the one they had “back home” and this is also true of the characters in this powerful book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda that details the lives of the vibrant community residing in Washington Heights, a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone’s business and windows are open for all to hear. Washington Heights is a community going through change and as we all know , change is hard to accept for the people who have spent almost their entire lives in “the hood”.

As the changes take place and these people face a new begining, they have to face how their lives will change as well. Will they take something from the old neighborhood to the new? Will all their hopes, dreams and desires change as well? Will the traditions they have shared for generations be left behind as they “blend in” with new neighbors who are not like those they leave behind?

“In The Heights” sends a powerful message through its vibrant use of hip-hop music, rap and Hispanic flavors and this cast is up to the task of making the words of this story have meaning. It all takes place on the streets of the neighborhood on a set by Anna Louizos, which seems smaller than the original, but as this is a set that is more portable, it works fine. One of the problems of a touring show that moves quickly from city to city is that the set has to be easy to transport, but the production itself outweighs any of the little things that can get in the way.

This is a strong story, one that almost anyone can understand. For most of us, our families lived in areas like the Heights, where everyone knew everyone and all of us relied on our neighbors. This is not how it is for most of us now, but for older people, this story will bring back some memories of the way it was. “In The Heights” has developed a sort of “cult audience” with many return visitors who know what to expect and cheer and howl where it is expected. Some even followed the lead of the actors on the stage when during a blackout, they lit up their cell phones as the characters onstage did. I was glad to see that they turned them off quickly.

This cast of 22 players is energy personified. Led by the brilliant Perry Young as Usnavi and the love of his life Vanessa( the glamorous Presilah Nunez). Theirs is a unique love story as is that of Camilla (Celina Clarich Polanco) and her husband Kevin ( Benjamin Perez) who despite a business slump are willing to give it all up so their daughter Nina ( Virginia  Cavaliere) can get the trophy that will make their family truly Americans, a college degree. There is of course the matriarch, Abuela Claudia ( a superb performance by Christina Aranda) who’s fortune changes the lives of all concerned in the “familia” of “The Heights”.

Great dancing, fun music, comic moments as well as heartwarming experiences- that is what “In The Heights” brings to the stage at The Oriental Theatre, but as I said earlier, only for one week- through the 15th, so you will have to rush to order your tickts, which range from $25 to $75 and are available at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices,, at the kiosk at Water Tower Place, all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at The Broadway In Chicago Ticketline  800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com where you can find the performance schedule as well.

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