IN THE HEIGHTSMusic and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Dallas Theater Center
Directed by James Vásquez
Choreographed by Rickey Tripp
Music Direction by Gary Adler
Scenic Design – Dahlia Al-Habieli
Costume Design – Lex Liang
Lighting Design – Rui Rita
Sound Design – Ken Travis
Hair, Wig & Make-up Design – Cherelle Guyton
Fight & Intimacy Direction – Ashley H. White
Production Stage Manager – Megan Winters
Assistant Stage Manager – Emily Burke
Assistant Director – Isa Muiño
Graffiti Artist – Jose Bone Garcia
Graffiti Pete – Michael Anthony Sylvester
Usnavi – Xavier Cano
Piragua Guy – Kevin Solis
Abuela Claudia – Nancy Ticotin
Kevin – David Lugo
Camila – Crissy Guerrero
Daniela – Talia Thiesfield
Carla – Lorens Portalatin
Vanessa – Marina Pires
Sonny – Christopher Llewyn Ramirez
Benny – Devin L. Roberts
Nina – Tiffany Solano DeSena
Ensemble – Tiana Kaye Blair, Neville Braithwaite, Jorge Guerra, Emmanuel Hernandez, Traci
Elaine Lee, Christina Austin Lopez, Delaney Love, Jeremy Tyrone Saxton
Conductor/Keys 1 – Gary Adler
Keys 2 – Jesse Fry
Guitar – Dennis Langevin
Bass – Hamilton Levine
Reed – Pete Brewer
Trumpet – Andrew Bezik
Trombone – Paul Birk
Percussion – Nicholas Rothouse
Drums – Terence Hobdy
Reviewed Performance: 9/28/2019
Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Within the confines of that one block and that time frame is an explosion of sass, love, loss, and dreams provided to us by the Dallas Theater Center’s Production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s joyous musical “In the Heights.” I can’t remember the last time I left a theater feeling so happy and hopeful. And it is a testament to the cast and crew of the play that those feelings are still with me. It is a powerful production.
Scenic Designer Dahlia Al-Habieli takes us to our block in Washington Heights with stunning detail. It is a wonderful multi-level set with real-looking, time-worn apartment buildings and businesses, and in the middle of it all is the bodega run by Usnavi (Xavier Cano). With the assistance of his cousin Sonny (Christopher Llewyn Ramirez), Usnavi serves the neighborhood hot and sweet coffee to start the day, dreams of running away to the Dominican Republic and laying on the beach all day, and longs for the beautiful Vanessa (Marina Pires) who works at the hair salon. He also cares for and lovingly chides the woman who raised him after his parents died, a person he and the whole neighborhood regard as the Grandmother of them all, Abuela Claudia (Nancy Ticotin). She’s been in the neighborhood most of her life yet dreams of going back to the Havana she left as a little girl.
Add to this mix the local street artist, Graffiti Pete (Michael Anthony Sylvester), The local piragua guy (Kevin Solis) whose flavored ice business is threatened by the nearby “Mister Frostee,” Benny (Devin L. Roberts), a non-Spanish speaking dispatcher for Spanish speaking taxi drivers at a business owned and run by Kevin (David Lugo) and Camila (Crissy Guerrero), and Nina (Tiffany Solano DeSena), Kevin and Camila’s Daughter who is the first in the family to go to college and uncomfortably carries the weight of that burden. Stir in a mysterious lottery winner, a power-blackout, and a jealousy-inspired fight in a dance club (among other things), and you have a spicy concoction which will warm you from your head to your heart.
Conceived and with music and lyrics by the creator of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and with a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, “In The Heights” is a glorious celebration of neighborhood culture, and this production, under the wonderful direction of James Vasquez, invites us to spend a couple of hours enjoying the festivities. It is a vision of the power we have when we are united by our culture, our relationships with each other, and an acknowledgement of our common humanity. It is a good time.
The costumes, designed by Lex Liang, echo the reality of the set, and have a lived-in, comfortable feel to them. So too the choreography by Rickey Tripp with its urban-Latin vibe. The dancing melds with the neighborhood and becomes an expression of the frustration and hopes and dreams of the people who live there. Sometimes, at the risk of embarrassing myself, I wanted to get up and dance with them.
It is impossible to talk about the music, ably played by the orchestra under the direction of Gary Adler, without talking about the actors. Xavier Cano as Usnavi makes his rapping look effortless. His character is the narrator of the piece and he clearly conveys emotional changes as the play progresses. Mr. Cano is a very appealing actor and makes us eager to follow his journey through the play.
As the woman of Usnavi’s dreams, Marina Pires’ Vanessa is beautiful and vulnerable. Vanessa longs to live downtown on her own, away from her alcoholic mother, but she doesn’t have the money. Ms. Pires’ character, like many of the other characters in the play, hopes for better and, because of this actor’s skill, Vanessa becomes a real person with the hopes all of us have. She is a fine singer and a very good dancer, especially in the dance club scene.
Nancy Ticotin as Abuela Claudia, the matriarch of the neighborhood, has a lovely and powerful singing voice and shows us the integrity and desires of the character. There is a hint of fragility to Ms. Ticotin’s presence and her singing which broaden and deepen Abuela Claudia’s impact on the community around her and on the audience.
I want to talk about Tiffany Solano DeSena’s Nina and Devin L. Robert’s Benny together. Their budding relationship is an important sub-plot to the show, and they portray it with genuine tenderness. Both actors are very good singers and their voices convey the yearning and desire their characters feel. Mr. Roberts is also fun to watch as the dispatcher who cannot speak Spanish trying to contend with the various Spanish dialects of the drivers over the radio. And Ms. DeSena is winning as the daughter fearing she is a failure to her family while struggling with what the future holds for her.
Nina’s parents Kevin and Camilla, played with deft expertise by David Lugo and Crissy Guerrero, are so real. Mr. Lugo’s pent up rage is palpable in his singing as Kevin vows not to be like his own father, but in the present situation, he feels useless. Kevin is struggling to help his family, sometimes with mixed results, and is coming to terms with his changing relationship with his daughter. Mr. Lugo gives a very compelling performance. As his wife Camilla, Crissy Guerrero performance is up to the task of being the strong-willed mother who is determined to keep the family together. Whatever the family faces, they will face it together, and Ms. Guerrero’s Camilla means it.
Kevin Solis is a great piragua guy. Wheeling his colorful cart through the streets, Mr. Solis solicits our attention with his friendly stage presence and his soaring voice. Michael Anthony Sylvester as Graffiti Pete and Christopher Llewyn Ramirez as Sonny start out as the odd men out in the beginning but confirm their true talents and intentions by the end. Both are very appealing actors. And if you ever need a sassy, gossipy hairdresser, Talia Thiesfield as Daniela is the woman to hire. This is a someone who has her finger on the pulse of gossip in the area, and has the will to party, even amidst the Summer heat and a power outage and the despair everyone feels. Equally fun is Carla, played by Lorens Portalatin, a hairdresser working for Daniella, with a religious streak and a somewhat befuddled view of life.
Tiana Kaye Blair, Neville Braithwaite, Jorge Guerra, Emmanuel Hernandez, Traci Elaine Lee, Christina Austin Lopez, Delaney Love, and Jeremy Tyrone Saxton are the members of the ensemble and are deserving of recognition and praise. They provide the texture and energy of the play and, with their great singing voices they make for a memorable night at the theater.
Dallas Theater Center has given Dallas the chance to visit a neighborhood filled with life and happiness and love. Join the “Carnival de Barrio” that is this production of “In The Heights”. It’s time to party!
Dallas Theater Center
September 21 – October 20, 2019
Tuesday -Thursday & Sunday – 7:30PM
Friday & Saturday – 8:00PM
Saturday & Sunday – 2:00PM
2400 Flora St, Dallas, TX 75201
For tickets and more information call (214) 522-8499
Or visit on the Web at www.dallastheatercenter.org