(PHOTO CREDIT: TAKE Creative)
Written by Patrick Chavis
Before Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda penned In the Heights, a musical that garnered praise in 2008 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Under the skillful direction of Benjamin Perez, the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts created a stage masterpiece with its latest offering. It is one of the best shows I’ve seen from this theatre company, and it’s one of the best theatre shows I’ve ever seen. This show has everything: heart, soul, and incredible music. Currently, it’s the best show of the year.
In the Heights is a musical about the Washington Heights community in New York City. The musical follows several different community members through dramatic scenes and music. Our main protagonist, Usnavi de la Vega (Ruben J. Carbajal), is the show’s narrator, aka MC (Master of Ceremony). He raps and sings throughout the show as life in the city unfolds before our very eyes.
The storyline is down-to-earth and relatable. We aren’t talking about watching spaceships or astral projections. In the Heights is a show about real people working a job on the corner and being shy around the girl they like. It’s a show about a solid connection to a culture and a community. It’s an American story about the hardships of being an immigrant. The script is put together in a classic style but with the modern use of Hip-hop and Latin influences. The show is a winner, and it won the Tony in 2008 for a good reason.
The acting in this production was exceptional across the board. I loved the actress who plays Abuela Claudia, the adopted grandmother figure of the community in the play. She sings a beautiful tune called “Paciencia Ye Fe,” which translates to “Patience and Faith.” The song was about Abuela’s Life in Cuba and why she left to live in Washington Heights.
“Piragua” is a cute, simple song delivered incredibly well by Kevin Solis, who plays the Piragua Guy. A Piragua is a Puerto Rican shaved ice treat. Nice to have one on a hot day.
The casting was spot on. The chemistry between Vanessa, played by Claudia Mulet, and Usnavi was undeniable. If you’re going to do this show, you have to get that right.
Dance captain Rachel Josefina’s choreography shines.
The set was gorgeous. It looks like two brownstones from New York. On the right of the stage, there’s a subway entrance. The middle of the stage depicts the bodega. It’s been years since I’ve been back to New York, but I remember my time near that area around the Cloisters. The design of the buildings is pretty accurate. The set felt natural, and the actors moved around it and made it their own.
In the Heights is a touching and heartfelt piece. This production tells the story at such a high level of professionalism that I’m at a loss for words. It’s a masterpiece.
June 3-26, 2022