“In the Heights” – Paramount Theatre

 

Book by: Quiara Alegria Hudes              paramount theatre aurora                                                                           

Music and Lyrics by:  Lin-Manuel Miranda

Director:  Rachel Rockwell                                                                                            

Music Direction:  Tom Vendafreddo 

Choreographer:  Kathie Spellman

                                                                                                                                                                                        

A Passionate Slice of Mixed Cultures

“In the Heights” creates an atmosphere…a colorful dynamic world with mixed but primarily the Latino culture, filled with life, death, dreams and wakeups.   On opening night the lobby of the theater buzzed with excitement, and this exuberance carried through the whole performance.  You travel to a passionate street of struggle, various lifestyles, disappointments and triumphs…a colorful world that you may not know very well, but will understand better by the end of the show.

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On 183rd Street in New York, “In the Heights”, portrays three days of heat and hip hop overlaid with rap.  In 2008, it saw 13 nominations for Tony Awards, winning four including Best Musical, Best Choreography and Best Orchestration.   

 As the star of the neighborhood, Nina (Christina Nieves) carries a major thread through the play; when she returns from university after the first year, disappointed with the pressure of working, and lack luster grades that cancel her scholarship. Lucinda Johnson, as Nina’s Mom, beautifully owns one scene with her incredible take-charge performance; and the always outstanding veteran, Paula Scrofano, as a kindly character, brings out all the tenderness and wisdom of most grandmothers.   The New York blackout creates fearful chaos, havoc with the street economy and  looters; but also opportunity for some serendipity happiness.  

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 The Set, a wonderful replica of the original Broadway design, shows a detailed three-story street scene with a large bridge on the backdrop and many well-worn tilted windows and doors for high-speed entrances and exits.  The colorful musical atmosphere, with the mist of humidity over the city, the bustling street traffic of vendor, bicycle rider, romantic couples, and shoppers, portrays the energy of the barrio. The hip-hop numbers had attitude but seemed more upbeat than one might anticipate for street dancing, while the Latin swaying hips came through more authentically, probably because of the mostly Hispanic cast. 

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 The novel simultaneous blend of center stage singers with background dancers adds much excitement to certain scenes, but the loud competing orchestra overwhelmed my comprehension of some of the soaring ballads.  Also the rapid speech, Spanish or the Spanish accents, made some dialogue disappear completely for me.  Admitting to age and only a moderate interest in rap, my ears listened too slowly to catch many of the words, but the gist of the several plots came through. The younger audience members probably never noticed and seemed wildly responsive.

 “In the Heights”, is an uplifting full-blown musical with a live orchestra, much energy, and a touching script.    Troublesome events are revealed, and most resolved with somewhat logical solutions.  The Paramount provides this bold and creative evening, or a total of four Broadway shows (In the Heights, Miss Saigon, 42nd Street and RENT) in a modestly-priced optional package.  It is hard to think of venues that compare to the Paramount anywhere else in the Chicago area for this type of grand production.

  RECOMMENDED

 Margaret Eva

Date Reviewed:  September 14, 2013

 Paramount Theatre

23 E. Galena Blvd.

Aurora, Illinois

 Performances:  Sept. 11 to Oct. 6, 2013

Wednesdays 1:30 pm. and 7:30 pm., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m.

Saturdays at 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 1:00 p.m and 5:30 p.m.

 Tickets:  Singles $36.90 to $49.90. or  $73.80 for all four Broadway Productions.

Call the Box Office at (630) 896-6666 or visit   www.ParamountAurora.com