In The Heights Porchlight Theatre

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Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Directed & Co-choreographed by Brenda Didier.

Co-choreographed by Christopher Carter.

Music Direction by Diana Lawrence.

Produced by Porchlight Theatre.

At Stage 773, Chicago.

High energy and vocally strong production of In The Heights awaits.

Before all the Hamilton hype. Lin-Manuel Miranda created a four Tony winner, including Best Musical with In The Heights.  I have seen the show three times now and I enjoyed and appreciated this musical on its own terms. Filled with a manic pace, toe-tapping rhythms and richly powerful vocals, Directer Brenda Didier and co-choreography Christopher Carter created wonderful dances including salsa, hip-hop and natural Latino beats. The energy keeps us engaged throughout.

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In The Heights is a pop-rap-salsa operetta that tries to be a Rodgers and Hamerstain meets Rent 21st Century Latino musical. The show is an idealized and romantic episodic story of the Latino immigrant population of Manhattan’s Washington Heights. It is a fantasy world free from poverty, crime and violence where guns shots are not heard and everyone gets along–a sort of big city Grover’s Corner. Is this the ‘real’ Washington Heights?

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In The Heights is in its story that has for its central problem–will Nina (the strong Lucia Godinez) go back to Stanford (just get a student loan?) and will Vanessa get her Bronx apartment and how will Abuela Claudia (the terrific Isabel Quintero) spend her $96,000 lotto winnings? The nearest In The Heights gets to conflict is the racism from Nina’s family toward the African-American Benny (Stephen Allen). This is a sugar-coated, idealized and sanitary depiction of the modern big city barrio that plays as fantasy. and becomes a parody of Latin barrio life. While In The Heights romanticizes the Latinx community, it is fun, charming and heartfelt.

My only minor complaint was that the sound was too loud forcing the singers to sing a tad too loud. But that seemed to get all the emotion of of each vocalists. In this production, the women dominate vocally. Lucia Godinez and Michelle Lauto (Vanessa) anchored the female singers while Jack DeCesare (Usnavi0 and Sonny (Frankie Leo Brnnett) led the boys in this pleasing production. In The heights benefits from the intimate thrust stage at Stage 773  and Porchlight’s deft production values. This production will get you in the mood for Hamilton by experiencing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work.

Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Date Reviewed: September 18, 2016.

Jeff Recommended.

For more info checkout the In The Heights page at theatreinchicago.com.

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call773-9884, www.porchlightmusictheatre.org, tickets $43 -$51, Thursdays at 7:30 pm,  Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8pm, sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through November 19, 2016,

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Fahlstrom's Fresh Fish Market

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The Spanish Square

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Stage 773

1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL