In The Heights

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 7:00 am By: Edward Lieberman Source:

The barrio has moved to Westchester! In the Heights, winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, is making its first appearance in the New York City area since it closed on Broadway at the Westchester Broadway Theatre, in Elmsford. This production, the first of Director John Fanelli’s new Standing Ovation Studios, based in Armonk, features a combination of performers from the Broadway and national tour casts as well as local Westchester talent.

On opening night writer/composer/creator Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced the production, commenting that it was always his dream to move the production ptown, but hadn’t imagined that it would be “so far uptown.”

In the Heightslike Fiddler on the Roof, Porgy and Bess and, to an extent, West Side Story before it, tells the story of inhabitants of a small community, their trials and tribulations, experiences, hopes and aspirations. The story here portrays the events of three days in the upper-Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights, in the shadows of the George Washington Bridge.

The protagonist/narrator, Usnavi (named for the ship his parents came to America on), opens the show with a long rap introducing the characters and their backstories: Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood matriarch, who has raised Uznavi since his parents died, leaving him with the responsibility -- and debts -- of a bodega he operates in the ‘hood’; his cousin Sonny, who dispenses street advice on life and love, especially when it comes to Usnavi’s love interest, Vanessa, who works at the salon next to his bodega. (When Vanessa asks if Usnavi can dance, Sonny answers, “Like a drunk Chita Rivera”). Camila and Kevin Rosario operate a car service. Benny, a dispatcher for Rosario’s car service, is an African-American; the only non-Latino in the neighborhood. Benny loves Nina, the Rosarios’ daughter, who was the success of the neighborhood and pride of her parents, having left for Stanford University on a scholarship. In addition, there are several minor characters, including Daniela, who owns the salon where Vanessa works; Carla, her other employee; Graffiti Pete, whose role takes on importance at the end of the show; and a character known only as the Piragua Guy who sells ices from a cart and is in