In the Heights – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Long before his stunning success with “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda crafted a musical tale of a community thriving in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge, in New York City.
 
Written while he was a student at Middletown’s Wesleyan University, with book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, “In the Heights” speaks to diversity and cooperation in the Washington Heights section of the city, where people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Latino nations live together and prepare for change.
 
At Westport Country Playhouse, extended until Sunday, May 19, this musical speaks to people helping people and the common goals of improving the way of life for everyone.
At the center of the community is the bodega, or grocery store, run by Usnavi, a caring but unsatisfied Rodolfo Soto.

He has dreams but they are unfulfilled.  Will he win the heart of Vanessa (Nina Victoria Negron)?  How can he best protect Abuela Claudia (Blanca Camacho) who is like a grandmother to him?  Should he return to his homeland to find what his present life is missing?
 
Around Usnavi swirl the stories of Nina (Didi Romero) whose parents (Tony Chiroldes and Doreen Montalvo) will sacrifice everything to guarantee their daughter get a college education, Benny (Gerald Caesar) who works for her parents and loves Nina, his cousin Sonny (Ezequiel Pujols) who helps in the bodega but wants more, Piragua Guy (Paul Aguirre) who sells iced drinks to the neighborhood and the sweet grandmother who has good fortune enough to change lives.
 
On the fourth of July when a blackout occurs, change is poised on the horizon.  With energized dancing choreographed by Marcos Santana, who is also the gifted director, as well as songs like “In the Heights,” “Breathe,” “Sunrise,” and “Alabanza,”  the heartfelt message of the people speaks to their joy. The colorful set by Adam Koch is the launchpad for the story.
 
For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 888-927-7529 or 203-227-4177 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m.and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
 
Come celebrate the vibrant life of a community where preserving the past is equally as important as laying the groundwork for the future.

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