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In The Heights ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
March 29, 2018

If you blinked you missed it.  Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights blew into the Kennedy Center for a few days and just as quickly fled.  Shades of things to come as the arrival this June of his blockbuster musical Hamilton hits a feverish pitch.  This was just the teaser.

In The Heights Cast ~ Photo by Teresa Wood

The Kennedy Center’s production starred a wealth of Broadway’s In The Heights original cast members like Blanca Camacho as Camilla; Eden Espinosa as Daniela; Eliseo Roman as Piragua Guy (Drama Desk Award); and tons of other notable Broadway stars including Ana Villafañe who plays Nina the Puerto Rican girl who goes off to Stamford to prove there’s a way out of the barrio if you’re willing to sacrifice love.  Villafañe originated the role of Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet which played the Kennedy Center in January.

Arianna Rosario, Ana Villafane, Eden Espinosa, and Vanessa Hudgens ~ Photo by Teresa Wood

Other cast members from Broadway’s Hamilton are J. Quinton Johnson who plays Benny Nina’s African-American love interest.  He currently stars in Hamilton as Hercules Mulligan and James Madison; and Grammy Award-winning musician and actor Anthony Ramos as the lead character Usnavi.  Ramos originated the roles of John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton in Hamilton.  Miranda likes to re-cast his actors.  A lot!

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Vanessa Hudgens_Photo by Yassine El Mansouri

The audience went wild for the adorable Vanessa Hudgens of Broadway’s Gigi and also of the High School Musical movies.  Here she plays Vanessa, the hairdresser who dreams of a better future.  Squeals could be heard throughout the chandeliered theatre for Anthony Ramos who has his own adorable factor as well as a killer voice.   Yet, most captivating to this reviewer was newcomer Mateo Ferro as Sonny.  If there’s a scene stealer here, it’s this 16-year old who had been cast as Usnavi in In The Heights in Strathmore theatre’s Young Artists of America summer theatre and who played Sonny at Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, Maryland. We need to see more of him.

J Quinton Johnson, Anthony Ramos, and Mateo Ferro ~ Photo by Teresa Wood

There was a huge refresh in terms of dance and musical delivery.  There’s more rapping by Usnavi and even pop-locking by a bevy of dancers who salsa their tail feathers off.

Miranda himself showed up on the final night of the show to thunderous applause.  If we have a National Hero in the theatre it’s this.

If you haven’t seen In The Heights yet, try to catch a production somewhere in the area.  It augurs Miranda’s rap/ballad style which has revolutionized musical theater and will prepare you for the Kennedy Center’s production of Hamilton – should you have been fortunate enough to be one of the lucky ones who snagged a ticket.

Seen at the Kennedy Center on March 22nd.

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