Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes
Directed by Michael Balderrama after Thomas Kail
Music Supervised by Alec Lacamoir
The National Tour
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Sarasota
Nov. 27, 2011

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

The scene is Washington Heights at a time of transition. Its current story and status is narrated by Usnavi (winning Perry Young), who runs a coffee bodega on the main street before the bridge that leads to the affluent parts  of NYC. Business is so-s0, challenged as in the rest of the area. Daniella (Tauren Hagans, sharp tongued) is about to close, then move her salon to the Bronx. Hairdresser Vanessa (beautiful Presilah Nunez), whom Usnavi loves, wants to leave for life and work in the Village. Nina (bright Virginia Cavaliere), known for her brains, has returned from Stanford U., where two jobs to meet needs not covered by her scholarship, gave her too little time to keep up her studies and grades. Her dropping out will be a blow to Grandma-to-the-neighborhood Claudia (sympatique Christina Aranda), who counted on Nina to be the first in family and area to finish college. No telling how bad the news will be to Nina's parents Camila (full-of-concern Celina Polanco) and especially Kevin (doting father Benjamin Perez). She's also the object of Benny's affections, who has grown up working for her dad. His status plus the fact that he's black, that is-of a different culture, stands in the way of romance. (Kyle Carter has a lot of charisma to help him past the barrier.) Another problem is that the parents' rental car and limousine shop is in poor financial  shape.

Things do work out—in a traditional, largely predictable  way that includes a lottery win and a slant on beginnings anew. Among the engaging denizens of the barrio, the Piragua Guy (Gabriel Gonzalez) who sells fruity ices and Graffiti Pete (Roddy Kennedy), a self-described Robin Hood of the Barrio, get a lot of applause.  The major assets of In the Heights are the music, especially rap and Latin, and the high-spirited dancing, choreographed by Director Michael Balderrama, based on the original by Andy Blankenbuehler.  The technical staff has proved efficient  in design and execution, with costumes and storefronts being very realistic. A growing local Hispanic  population provided people of all ages who evidenced enjoyment of the show.

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