Thursday, August 24, 2017

IN THE HEIGHTS • R-S Theatrics

Life in the New York City borough of Washington Heights is painted with spirited strokes in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning musical, In the Heights, and R-S Theatrics brings it to the stage in their biggest show to date. Covering a few days around a sweltering 4th of July, there’s a jackpot lottery ticket sold, a blackout, and two couples who fall for each other, while the pros and cons of remaining in a tight-knit community are weighed.

Usnavi (Jesse Muñoz), Sonny (Kevin Corpuz)
and Benny (Marshall Jennings).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindbergh
The winning ticket is sold from a local bodega owned by Usnavi de la Vega. Selling café con leche by the bucket, his is a popular spot in the predominantly Latino neighborhood, and Jesse Muñoz portrays this all-around good guy with an easygoing appeal, slyly wooing his love interest, Vanessa (Natasha Toro). Usnavi’s Abuela Claudia is the backbone of the neighborhood, and Carmen García was a highlight, with rich, powerful vocals and a memorable "Paciencia y Fe”, where she reflects on her childhood and her immigration to America. Anna Skidis Vargas is always a vocal standout, and here she shines as Daniela, a salon owner and local gossip, delivering a solid "No Me Diga" and "Carnaval del Barrio". A very funny Gabriela Diaz is Carla, an employee at the salon, and Diaz and Vargas sound wonderful together, and provide a fair share of the laughs, along with Kevin Corpuz in a buoyant performance as Usnavi’s flirtatious young cousin, Sonny. It was good to see Marshall Jennings in the well-deserved role of Benny, who works at a taxicab dispatch. Marshall’s got a splendid voice and possesses a lovable charm, winning the heart of the dispatch owner’s daughter Nina, played beautifully by Cassandra Lopez. Nina is feisty with her father, Kevin (Jaime Zayas), who doesn’t approve of Benny because he’s not Latino, but leave it to Nina’s mother, Camila (Maritza Motta-Gonzalez), to get her family in line.

Carla (Gabriela Diaz), Daniela (Anna Skidis Vargas)
and Vanessa (Natasha Toro).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindbergh
Miranda has a brilliant, natural sense for syncopated verse that is evident here, and later in his groundbreaking Broadway mega-hit, Hamilton. Unfortunately, some of those rhymes were drowned out by the band and hampered by pesky mic issues that will no doubt smooth out over the course of the run. Christina Rios directs the show, setting up some nice tableaus throughout, with lighting by Nathan Schroeder and costumes by Sarah Porter. Cecily A. King provides big, dynamic choreography, and good use is made of small set pieces that were brought in and out to represent Usnavi’s bodega stand and the Rosario’s taxi dispatch.
Abuela Claudia (Carmen García).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindbergh

R-S Theatrics is an ambitious company, and its artistic
director, Rios, gives zero f’s about how big a show is. To her credit, if she wants to stage it, she’ll stage it, and this production has paid off with an entire runs that’s sold out. They added a performance on the 24th (tonight!), so snag a ticket if you can. It’s playing until the 3rd.

• This is the first show produced in R-S Theatrics’ new home in residence at the .ZACK Performing Arts Incubator space, but this space presents a challenge -- columns. Take care to sit where they won’t obstruct your view.


Music/lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes 
Directed by Christina Rios
through September 3 | tickets: $15 - $25
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm
Added performance: August 24 at 8pm

Benny (Marshall Jennings) and Nina (Cassandra Lopez).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindbergh
Usnavi de la Vega: Jesse Muñoz
Nina Rosario: Cassandra Lopez
Kevin Rosario: Jaime Zayas
Camila Rosario: Maritza Motta-Gonzalez
Benny: Marshall Jennings
Vanessa: Natasha Toro
Sonny: Kevin Corpuz
Abuela Claudia: Carmen García
Daniela: Anna Skidis Vargas
Carla: Gabriela Diaz
Graffiti Pete: Karl Hawkins
Piragüero: Kelvin Urday
Claudia’s Mother: Cecily A. King
Young Claudia: Alora Marguerite
Teen Claudia: Isabel García

Vanessa (Natasha Toro), Benny (Marshall Jennings),
Usnavi (Jesse Muñoz) and cast.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindbergh
Mara Bollini
Antonio Daniels-Braziel
Melissa Felps
Evan Fornachon
Chris Kernan
Grace Langford
Sara Rae Womack

Musical Director: Leah Luciano
Stage Manager: Elizabeth Van Pelt
Assistant Stage Manager: Rhiannon Creighton
Assistant Stage Manager: Angel Eberhardt
Assistant Stage Manager: Amy Riddle
Choreographer: Cecily A. King
Dance Captains: Kevin Corpuz and Melissa Felps
Fight Choreographer: Mark Kelley
Fight Captain: Sara Rae Womack
Scenic Designer: Keller Ryan
Lighting Designer: Nathan Schroeder
Costumer Designer: Sarah Porter
Sound Designer: Mark Kelley
Technical Director: Keller Ryan
Light Board Operator: Erin Riley
Production Interns: Isabel García and Sophia Gotto
Graffiti Artist: Bryan Pease
Artistic Director: Christina Rios

Keyboard 1: Nick Moramarco
Trumpet: Ron Foster
Reeds: J.D. Tolman
Drums: Mike Hansen
Percussion: Peter Gunn
Guitar: D. Mike Bauer
Bass: Devin Lowe
Trombone: Kayla Nogle
Conductor/Keyboard 2: Leah Luciano

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