By Christopher Heide
Engaging. Dynamic. Colorful. Frantic. These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe The Village Theatre’s current rendition of In the Heights. According to the press release, “Set in a community where everyone knows your business, things are about to shake-up as romances bloom, dreams are challenged, and one winning lottery ticket threatens to change everything. Nominated for 13 Tony awards, winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, and nominated for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, In The Heights is a fun and fresh hip-hop musical with an infectious salsa beat.”
Overall, this production is very good. It boasts an extremely talented cast, vibrant sets and a pulsing energy that never seems to dissipate through the entirety of the show. Thematically, , In The Heights does an adequate job of depicting the desires of young adults, as well as minorities in general, to escape their circumstances and live the life they envision for themselves. It’s a contemporary theme that is extremely apropos for the current millennial generation. This is not an old-school Broadway musical; it’s infused with hip-hop, both in its rhythmic lyrical content and fierce choreography.
In fact, a true standout of this production is choreographer, Daniel Cruz. The degree of fluidity, subtlety and technical prowess Cruz demonstrates in his advanced choreography is nothing short of spectacular. Every movement the dancers make only serve to enhance the story and elevate the overall quality of this production. In fact, should Cruz choose, he could easily choreograph for a show like So You Think You Can Dance. His talent is just that remarkable.
Two particular standouts among the cast include Naomi Morgan as "Vanessa" and Tanesha Ross as "Nina Rosario." While their acting is strong, both women make their presence felt with extremely impressive vocal performances. Channeling their inner divas, both women participate in energetic feats of melisma; vocal acrobatics akin to the power and talent of such singers as Christina Aguilera and Whitney Houston. This is not a show for vocal amateurs. Many of the songs hold big power notes, which in the hands of less talented singers, would be a complete disaster.
What is most impressive is how In The Heights rarely feels like a regional theater production. It is a big, bombastic, Broadway musical in every sense of the word. The Village Theatre has once again delivered an impressively polished production; a truly pleasant surprise for its loyal audience.