Left – Luisa Scrofani and Tim “Timomatic” Omaji. Cover – The Cast. Photos – Grant Leslie
In The Heights consistently hits the highs in an exhilarating musical with surprising emotional depth. Set in Washington Heights, a Hispanic enclave in New York city, In The Heights is a feel good tale of community, of the displaced finding a place, and of one generation's high hopes for themselves and for the future generation.
Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights incorporates rap and hip hop and Latin beats and riffs for one helluva musical estofado. Usnavi, a boy bearing a brave new world appellation emotionally bestowed by his immigrant father, runs a neighbourhood general store. It's the hub of the 'hood, like a village well from a bygone era. He's in love with Vanessa who works at the local hairdressers and cannot wait to “bust out” of the place. Already “busted out” is their contemporary, Nina, who has earned a scholarship to study at Stanford University, but she has returned with some shattering news for her family.
On paper, In The Heights looks like the “love's labours lost” trope of countless musicals. On stage, in this dynamic and passionate production, it is transmogrified into a thrilling piece of theatre. Director Luke Joslin, musical director, Lucy Bermingham and choreographer, Amy Campbell are lock in step with the material and the highly disciplined, effervescent cast, an ensemble that is most definitely “on song”.
Ryan Gonzales as Usnavi is perfect as the dapper rapper, a warm hearted carer of his aunty, Claudia, his employee, Sonny, and his tight knit clientele. Olivia Vasquez is vibrant as Vanessa, the object of his desire, suitably sultry in song and salsa. Luisa Scrofani as Nina is superb, her shining smile never shadowed, a glorious, genuine display of joy emanating from her mouth and manifesting in her music and moves. Her joyous Juliet is a perfect fit for her charming and robust Romeo, Benny, sweetly played by Tim “Timomatic” Omaji.
Ana Maria Belo as Camilla and Alexander Palacio as Kevin are superb as Nina's parents, conflicted, caring, and true. Belo's comic timing is fire cracker sharp and whip smart. Margi De Ferranti as Abuela Claudia is gold, especially with a heart wrenching rendition of Hundreds of Stories. Tremendous triple threat triple treats is tendered by Marty Alix, Libby Asciak, Samantha Bruzzese, Monique Montez, Michelle Rozario, Stephen Tannos and Will Centurion. Veteran busker and myriad band member, Richard Valdez, delivers an endearing reprising cameo as The Piragua Guy.
Simon Greer's set has Usnavi's general store back and centre flanked by the hairdressing salon and the chauffeur service run by Nina's family, a cosy and economical construct of place, abetted by simple scaffolding and strategically placed milk crates to effectively evoke fire stairs and balconies. Trudy Dalgleish puts the lights in the heights and there is splendid “height” couture from costume designer, Elizabeth Franklin.
In The Heights is an exuberant and joyous celebration of what truly matters – family and community and a true sense of home – expressed in a fusion of modern and traditional music, dance and song.
Blue Saint Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co present
IN THE HEIGHTS
music and lyrics Lin-Manuel Miranda | book Quiara Alegría Hudes | conceived Lin-Manuel Miranda
Director Luke Joslin
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point
Dates: from 16 March 2018
Tickets: $69 – $64
Bookings: hayestheatre.com.au | (02) 8065 7337