Porchlight’s “In the Heights” Review – Talent Transport to the Top of the World

Porchlight "In the Heights"
Missy Aguilar as "Daniela" and the cast of In The Heights perform "Carnaval Del Barrio"

It’s the ‘hood…

It’s home…

“In The Heights”, by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Music and Lyrics) and Quiara Alegría Hudes (book), paints a portrait of pan-Latin Washington Heights as the millennium approaches. They do so with the vivid colors of a spray painting graffiti artist.

Every child who grew up there knew their ‘hood was the top of the world. One look at the New York Subway map confirmed it.

In a Romeo & Juliet remix moment, Nina Rosario (played by Lucia Godinez) sweetly sings this to her love interest Benny (played by Stephen Allen).

"In the Heights" and the Hood's Hold

You don’t need a New Yorker’s Map of the World in your mind’s eye to get the reference. In song after song, and dance after dance, “In the Heights” captures the hold of ‘hood and home on the imagination of children of all ages. The particulars of a barrio under siege of gentrification are there-- but so is the universal love of place that’s in the air from Kabul to Kennebunkport.

Washington Heights

Talent Oozes from the "In the Heights" Stage

In Porchlight’s most able hands, it’s talent that transports you to this particular top of the world.

"In the Heights" Director Brenda Didier has assembled a magnetic cast that fills the hall with superbly timed songs and dances delighting in wave after wave. In their moment, many of the performers seem to be the one carrying the day; the stronger performances drown out the lesser ones handily.

When Jordan DeBose as Kevin Rosario delivers his soulful singing lament as a father feeling he has failed his family, it pierces like the best tenor arias on opera’s grand stages.

Porchlight "In the Heights"
(L to R) Jordan DeBose and Lucia Godinez as "Kevin Rosario" and "Nina Rosario”
Porchlight "In the Heights"
(L to R) Michelle Lauto, Missy Aguilar, Lucia Godinez and Leah Davis as "Vanessa," "Daniela," "Nina Rosario," and "Carla”

Four of the talented women in the "In the Heights" cast—Missy Aguilar as Daniela, Leah Davis as Carla, Michelle Lauto as Vanessa, and Lucia Godinez as Nina—in one short song, “No Me Diga”, capture us using overflow divas-with attitude charisma.

You too might find yourself longing for more tirades against Mr. Softee by the local street vendor, El Piragüero, played by Stan DeCwikiel, Jr. , because his golden chords are just so, so sweet.

And at intermission you also might be thumbing through the "In the Heights" program notes to find out if Stephen Allen, who plays Benny, has perhaps made recordings.

Porchlight's "In the Heights"
Frankie Leo Bennett as "Sonny" performs "96,000" with the cast of In The Heights

And then there’s impish triple-threat Frankie Leo Bennett as Sonny, who at every turn –literal and figurative--threatens to steal the show.

Porchlight "In the Heights"
Jack DeCesare as "Usnavi" dances with Ensemble member Elena Romanowski

He can’t though- because the talent concentration is so intense. Every ensemble member sparkles – Nicole Lambert, Cisco Lopez, Yando Lopez, Travis Austin Wright and Demi Zaino, and your eyes will likely especially gravitate to watching superb dancer Elena Romanowski.

"In the Heights" Gets the Winning Porchlight Touch

Perfect to place and time costumes (Costume design: Kate Setzer Kamphausen) add to the thrill of seeing such a super-sized production up close and personal on a relatively intimate stage—a seeming hallmark of all Porchlight productions.

There are no surprises in this story."In the Heights" is predictable from the opening curtain. You probably won’t mind. This reviewer certainly didn’t. It’s the talent in telling the tale that makes this a standout on Chicago stages.

 

When:

Extended through December 31.

Thursdays  7:30 pm (except October 6)

Fridays   8:00 pm

Saturdays 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm

Sundays 2:00 pm

Special performances: 

Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. 
and Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1:30 p.m. 

Meet the cast and members of the creative team Sunday 9/25 4:30pm

Post-show discussions--
Friday 10/7 10:30pm - 11:30pm
Thursday 10/13 10pm - 11pm
Thursday 10/20 10pm - 11pm

 

 

Where:

Stage 773

1225 West Belmont

Chicago

 

How to Get "In the Heights" Tickets:

$45 - $51

To purchase, call 773 327 5252 or visit the Porchlight website at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org .

 

Photos:  Gretchen Kelley

 

 

 

 

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