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In the Heights: LTA Takes a Modern Musical to New Heights

Erin P. Doherty
By Erin P. Doherty
Posted on Jul 30,2015
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

Photo by Keith Waters - Kx Photography
Opening Number: In The Heights (Cast)

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights chronicles three days in Washington Heights, a northern Manhattan neighborhood where the George Washington Bridge connects New Jersey and New York. Lighting designers (Ken and Patty Crowley) evoke the feeling of being there with the ever-present, lit-up bridge. Here, immigrants preserve traditions while pursuing the American dream.

Usnavi (Andres Alejandro Ponce) is the Dominican bodega owner whose smooth rap connects thoughts of "late nights," "beans and rice," "shaved ice," and "say it twice" (In the Heights). Sonny (Joey Ledonia) is Usnavi's cousin who works with him. Graffiti Pete (Matt Stover) surprises Usnavi with a moving portrait, thereby gaining recognition as an artist.

Nina (Christy Fischer) lost her Stanford University scholarship. Her sentimental Papi is Kevin (Sean Garcia), whose wife, Camila (Janice Rivera) is sweet until she explodes (Enough) at her family. Carl Williams brought a strong voice and character to the "honorary Latino," African-American Benny, the dispatcher whose romance blossoms with Nina during a blackout and July 4 fireworks. Their love is conveyed (Sunrise) as is their loss (Albanza). Nina’s first number (Breathe) afforded a rare slow moment in a fast-paced show. The actors were always audible over the powerful music, especially Vanessa (Chelsea Crane).

While singing “Blackout,” everyone looks out for one another and watches the fireworks together. “Everything I Know,” Carnaval del Barrio,” and “Finale” show that the community remains cohesive through challenges. Flags used in the dance numbers evoke feelings of being in a close-knit neighborhood with much cultural diversity. The community also unites to sing 96,000, about a winning lottery ticket sold at Usnavi's store to Abuela Claudia (Mary Ayala Bush). She sings a powerful rendition of the Cuban mambo Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith).

MYKE's set depicts Usnavi’s bodega, Daniela’s beauty salon, the Rosario’s cab company, and tenements around the 181st Street subway station. The Mom-and-Pop shops struggle against gentrification. The neighborhood changes as people sell their businesses and move out. In a humorous scene, a sign is taken down, revealing another left by Irish immigrants from long ago.

The Piragua Guy (Daniel Devera) pushes a cart of shaved ice and fruit syrup, singing and competing with an ice cream truck. No Me Diga is gossipy and well sung by salon owner Daniela (Tanara Robinson) and employees Carla (Jacqueline Salvador) and Vanessa, and customer Nina.

According to Eddie Page, a theatre Council member, “The (unseen 12-member) band includes two sets of drums and is so tightly nestled in!” Under Christopher A. Thomasino’s musical direction, they made agile transitions between salsa and hip-hop.

Don’t Miss “In the Heights,” playing until August 15 at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe St. Tickets are available either by calling 703-683-0496 or visiting the Web site at

Photo by Keith Waters - Kx Photography
Left to Right: Matt Stover (Graffiti Pete), Oscar Salvador, Jr. (Male Community), Chelsea Crane (Vanessa), Chris Rios (Male Community), Tahara Robinson (Daniela), Jaqueline Salvador (Carla)
Photo by Keith Waters - Kx Photography
Left to Right: Christy Fischer (Nina Rosario), Carl Williams (Benny)

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