Monday, May 1, 2017

IN THE HEIGHTS = It’s here in Columbia Heights! 

What do you say about a sold out show that gets a standing ovation?  GALAs production of In the Heights is that special. 

With heart stopping singing and exuberant dancing, this production of In The Heights  explodes with endless possibilities as one “follows the path that is your life.”  

There are days when everything goes wrong from fights with family to NYC ConEd blackout to the death of a dearest  lifelong friend.  And at the same time, things go right—lovers match up and  people resiliently re-build businesses.  

And there are nights when everyone goes out dancing!

Juan Luis Espial leads the cast, as Usnavi, in the role originally played by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  He is the narrator and owner of a small bodega in Washington Heights and in love with Vanessa,   (Veronica Alvarez).   He was raised by Abuela (means grandmother in Spanish)  Claudia (Michelle Rios)  

Laura Lebron is Nina and Vaught Ryan Midder is Benny.  Nina is the first of her family to have left the barrio, but she loses her scholarship to Stanford.    Benny works for her father’s taxi dispatch business and is the only not Hispanic/not Spanish speaking  character.  

Nina’s over protective parents are Kevin (Jose F. Capellan) and Camella (Shadia Fairuz), who are not happy with her not telling them first that she is leaving school or her relationship to Benny, but must of all, that she did not come home to family first.

Daniela (Scherzade Quiroga) is the owner of a salon where   Carla (Gabriella Perez) works.  They are a team, with Daniela as  bold and Carla as slow to get jokes. But Carla is more than the other half of a comic team.  She is diversity personified, being of Dominican,  Cuban,  Chilean, Puerto Rican descent.

Rafael Beato is Usnavi’s younger cousin Sonny and Myriam Gadri is Graffiti/Sonny’s boyfriend.  Together they will bring a surprise unifying moment to the conclusion of The Heights.  

Pete Felix Marchany as Piragua Guy (it’s a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert, shaped like a pyramid, consisting of shaved ice and covered with fruit flavored syrup).  Like the unnamed everyman in a play, he pushes his cart through the neighborhood.  With the electric power  off (in a heat wave), Mr. Softee is out of business, and the Piragua Guy saves the day.

It’s a musical that takes its lyrics seriously.  Director and choreographer Luis Salgado has adapted  a Spanish version by Amaury Sánchez  of Lin-Manuel Miranda musical/ book by Quiara Allegría Hudes.   GALA’s production intersperses  English and Spanish  throughout each song.  While this idea seems theatrical, it is actually the way that people immerse into another culture by using another’s language as they go along in everyday transactions.   

And we know the two lovers are on their way to permanent togetherness when Benny asks Nina to teach him Spanish.

Kudos to the production team which includes Music Directer Walter “Bobby” McCoy, Set Designer Elizabeth J. McFadden; Lighting by  Christopher Annas-Lee: Costumes:Robert Croghan; Sound, Roc Lee.  

The fine Ensemble includes Aaron Cobos, Hector Flores Jr., J.Jose Ozuna, Melinette Pallares, Amaya Perea, Nathalia Raigosa, Luis Ramos and Ma.Ximena Salgado.

Show runs from April 20 to May 21, 2017 —hopefully there will be an extension since  many of the remaining performances are already sold out.   

GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14 St. NW. Visit or call 202-234-7174.