The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) has launched In the Heights, as part of their ‘Director’s Dream Season.’ Frank D. Shutts II has wanted to put this 2008 ony Award-winning Best Musical for over five years and has succeeded in recreating the magic of this unique American musical, mostly due to the heart and talent of this young cast, many of whom are making their LTA debut. They pull off this music-heavy score of hip hop, rap, Broadway and Latin American rhythms with passion and skill. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music and lyrics with book by Quiara Alegría Hudes.
The heart of the show is Usnavi (Andres Alejandro Ponce), originally portrayed by Miranda. He easily handles the rapped lyrics of “In the Heights” and has the heart for “Alabanza” when tragedy strikes his family.
Chelsea Crane (Vanessa) is a powerhouse that keeps the story anchored. Her powerful vocal soars in “96,000,” “Blackout,” and her duo “Champagne” with Ponce is delightful.
Joey Ledonio (Sonny) plays the self-proclaimed sidekick and he is a perfect foil with a great comic timing.
Tahara Robinson (Daniela) and Jacqueline Salvador (Daniela and Carla) play two hairstylists with impressive pipes on “No Me Diga” and “Carnival Del Barrio.”
Carl Williams (Benny) and Christy Fischer (Nina) sound great and have excellent chemistry for their duets and solos. “Sunrise” and “When the Sun Goes Down” are especially sweet. Christy Fischer blows the roof off of “Breathe.”
Sean Garcia and Janice Rivera (Kevin and Camila Rosario) are Nina’s parents and have the gravitas for “Inutil (Useless)” and “Enough,” both new anthems.
Mary Ayala-Bush (Abuela Claudia) shows all of the youngsters onstage how it’s done on “Paciencia Y Fe (Patience and Faith).”
They are backed by a chorus of strong dancers and singers that light up the stage on “In the Heights” and “Blackout” to choreography by Stefan Sittig that ranges from salsa to street dancing. Music Director and Conductor Christopher A. Tomasino leads a fine orchestra that embraces the eclectic musical styles without overwhelming the singers.
The set by MYKE sticks close to the original – the storefronts of the barrio with a great attention to the little details like Coca-Cola bottles, trashcans, and the blinking bridge lights in the background. A main plot involves a famed graffiti artist who paints a masterpiece and Leslie Reed is the true hand behind the inspiring painting. The costumes range from 1940’s New York to a salsa clubs to the streets, all lit by a crazy lighting design by Ken and Patti Crowley that shines especially during the blackout when the whole theater is lit with stars and fireworks.
In the Heights was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and it is inspiring to see a new young cast to take on this tribute to the American spirit – and Dominican-American and Puerto Rican-American and Cuban-American show as well. LTA does its usual stellar job with a skilled cast, the big numbers, and the small details that bring this unique and universal story to life.
The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s exhilarating In the Heights is a fun and inspiring show. Don’t miss it!
Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Interview with Frank D. Shutts II on Directing ‘In the Heights’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria July 25th-August 15th.