Review: ‘In the Heights’ at Montgomery College

Montgomery College’s current production is The Tony Award-winning musical In The Heights, with book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Many may be familiar with Miranda’s recent sensation, Hamilton, currently on Broadway. In The Heights has that same musical style of a unique cohesion of rap, hip hop, and musical theater. With incredible music, dancing that gets you cheering, and a story of finding your way, Montgomery College has done a stellar job with this demanding piece.

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In The Heights is a story that takes place over 3 days in a primarily Latino neighborhood in New York’s Washington Heights. This dynamic community is going through a transition and individuals must make decisions that will shape the course of their life. Some will find love, some will find heartbreak, and some will find their way home.

The show, wonderfully and enthusiastically directed by Raymond Caldwell, and musically directed by Walter ‘Bobby’ McCoy, starts off with a blast of energy that never lets up. Tiffany Quinn’s choreography was stellar. Every intricate move was fluid and exciting. The seamlessness of the scenes into the songs showed how Cadwell and Quinn clearly work well together.

The set design, by Elizabeth McFadden, was simple and effective, with many levels incorporated into the design and moving pieces that could be used in the choreography at times.

The music for this show is complicated and gorgeously performed by Musical Director Walter McCoy (Musical Director) with a live band filled with superb musicians: Brandon Fullencamp, Lindsay Williams, Dana Garner, Don’t Junker, Paul Weiss, Doug Elliott, Manny Arciniega, Jim Hofmann, and Alex Aucoin.

Fantastic choreography can’t be performed without dancers and they deserve a mention. Jonathan Rucker, Candice Foreman, and Cassandra Williams just nailed everything and flowed in and out of the scenes and songs, adding flavor and depth to the story.

Unfortunately, there were some sound issues at my performance which, thankfully, (I was just told) have been resolved for tonight’s performance. Sill, the actors did a fantastic job pushing through and, if they were frustrated with the situation, it definitely did not show. One of the central characters of the show, Abuela Claudia, was played by Samantha Shoop. Shoop has the moving song “Paciencia y Fe,” and delivered it with great power, despite her microphone not working at all. I admired her and her fellow ‘troupers!’

The leads were a powerhouse group of triple-threats. Danie Rodriguez (Usnavi), Geocel Batista (Vanessa), Solomon Parker (Benny), Briana Taylor (Nina). They were all strong and had a natural chemistry together.

Rodriquez raps and sings in the opening number, setting the bar for high for the level of talent and energy for the rest of the show.

The song, “In the Heights,” is an incredible ensemble song that starts the show with a bang.

Briana Taylor’s rendition of ‘Breathe” was stunning. Taylor has a clear beautiful tone and you could feel every bit of her anguish.

Another standout company number was “Blackout.” It’s the Act I finale and the whole cast gives it their all. Batista is especially fierce in this number. As Vanessa, she shines through the entire show but the club scene is where she dominates.

A special shout-out to the Piragua Guy (Eric Teran). He delivered the very fun and lively song “Piragua,” with gusto, and he gave a light-hearted and adorable performance that left me smiling from ear to ear.

David Singleton (Sonny) and Ariana Pestana (Daniela) were terrific. Singleton does a stand-out job and makes Sonny a lovable menace with a good heart. Pestana’s Daniela is all sass and attitude and gives the show an enjoyable infusion of spiciness, especially in “Carnaval del Barrio.”

The entire cast of Montgomery College’s, In The Heights, gives a powerful and heartfelt performance and the musicians are awesome! The production is a shot of energy and inspiration. See it for the music. See it for the dancing. But just see it!

No te pierdas esta producción!

Running Time: Two hours, with one 10-minute intermission

In The Heights splays through this Sunday, February 28, 2016 at Montgomery College’s Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center- 51 Mannakee Street, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at  (301) 634.2270, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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