“In The Heights” Brings The Heat As R-S Theatrics Powers This Local Premiere


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Before “Hamilton” ran away with the Tony’s, Lin-Maneul Miranda won his share of Tony’s for “In The Heights-” including Best Musical. Now we finally get to see that show thanks to R-S Theatrics with their usual smooth and exciting production values. This one’s incredibly hot with the salsa rhythms and a series of story lines centered on the Hispanic community in Washington Heights.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

In one of her dream productions, R-S Theatric’s Artistic Director, Christina Rios, takes the reins as director of “In The Heights” and brings us a scintillating production that brings the house down. Jesse Munoz plays one of the lead characters, Usnavi (if you haven’t guessed where he got the name, the show will explain) and he gives a charming, almost laid-back performance that’s effective for the role. We see the love blossom between he and Vanessa, played with spark and sass  by Natasha Toro.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Another love story we follow is that between Camila and Benny, played with style and longing by Cassandra Lopez and Marshall Jennings. Since Benny works for her father, their love is a bit on the sly as both his father, a stern yet caring Jaime Zayas and his mother, another laid back performance by Maritza Motta-Gonzalez don’t approve of their relationship


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Stealing the show is Anna Skidis Vargas as hairdresser Daniela. Together with her partner in style, Gabriela Diaz as Carla, they rock the house with the first act number, “No Me Diga” and then Skidis starts the fun going in the second act with “Carnaval Del Barrio” which lights up the stage with a powerful ensemble number.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Cecily A .King roots another story as Claudia’s mother. We see teen Claudia with a lovely performance by Isabel Garcia and then young Claudia featuring nice work by Alora Marguerite. As the grandmother, Abuela Claudia, Carmen Garcia blows us away with her feature number and provides the foundation for this little family of saints and sinners who inhabit the barrio.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

As usual, the ensemble stands out in an R-S Theatrics show and the crisp direction and amazing achievements of choreographer Cecily A. King on this small stage are highlights.  And the always marvelous work of conductor Leah Luciano gets an extra lift with an expanded orchestra including nice work by Ron Foster on trumpet and Mike Hansen on drums and Peter Gunn on percussion- two sounds essential to this musical. The whole orchestra is right on.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

I’m still having a bit of difficulty falling in love with .Zack space- it’s a bit too cumbersome at times- particularly for a full fledged musical production. But Keller Ryan has provided a very workable set that includes a lot of quick scene changes with items being rolled off and on. Sarah Porter’s costumes are colorful and perfect while the lighting of Nathan Schroeder is great but we had a few missed cues on press night. Once this show gets moving and the adrenal builds for full houses, it’s all going to work to perfection.


Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

“In The Heights” is a massive undertaking but R-S Theatrics has surprised us before and they’re doing it again. It runs through September 3rd but most performances are sold out- in fact they’ve just added a Thursday night performance to accommodate the demand for tickets. Give them a call at 314-252-8812 and keep your fingers crossed that you get to see this wonderful production.

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