Peg and I had only recently reviewed the stage production of “The Happiest Song Plays Last” at Tacoma Little Theatre written by Quiara Alegria Hudes – thesubtimes.com/2022/05/01/the-happiest-song-plays-last-tacoma-little-theatre-review-of-the-ending-trilogy-by-quiara-alegria-hudes/
The Happiest Song featured live music on stage. It was a precursor to “In The Heights.” Hudes wrote the book with Lin-Manuel Miranda of “Hamilton” success and fame writing the music and lyrics. Music and dancing was the key element of “In The Heights.” There was a lot Spanish and Puerto Rico Spanish being spoken. “In the Heights” means Washington Heights in New York City (Manhattan). The musical tells the story of a New York City bodega (a small grocery store in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood) owner who saves his money in hopes of a better life.
I like the review by Eric Grode of The New York Sun in his description of the production: “One of the most polished and exuberant musicals now on Broadway. If you have any rhythm in your heart you shouldn’t miss it!” This was just as true in Tacoma as it was on Broadway. The music, the singing and the dancing captured our hearts. At intermission our friend Jan joined us front-row center. Over dinner the night before Peg and I talked so much about the musical that she bought a ticket on her own and surprised us. When she sat down not only the three of us had great praise for the show, but a young woman directly behind us joined in. She was also an actress and familiar with the work on stage of TMP.
Roycen Daley, who plays Usnavi for Saturday Matinées, did a very nice and believable character. Nice voice and both a friendly manner with the other actors as well as exasperation with problems of Graffiti Pete who paints he tags on everything if you let him. He appeared in Tacoma Little Theatre’s A Chorus Line, which was and excellent local production as well. He was a great choice.
Richard Cubi plays Graffiti Pete on Saturday Matinées and Usnavi on the other productions. We first saw Richard as part of the ensemble in All Shook Up and could tell by his presence he would not be in the background for too long. This was his first lead role in Washington. He is or was a Puerto Rican performer.
Usnavi lost his abuelita (grandmother) last year and the character Usnavi cares for the local community’s abuelita (Deanna Martinez). We had seen Deanna in CenterStage’s very successful production of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” just a month before seeing “In The Heights.” Just as her character and voice won the hearts of the audiences at CenterStage, Deanna won them all by herself at Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Not a brand new face, but one becoming familiar was Nick Marston as Sonny (Usnavi’s dogsbody). We had seen Nick in the 10 Minute Musical and in Cinderella, The Enchanted Edition. He’s a student at Silas High School (old Wilson High School). Nick is currently competing in the monologue national finals at New York’s Apollo Theatre.
Christina Naficy as Daniela, the beauty shop owner, was absolutely fantastic. Her singing, her dancing, and her stage presence were the ultimate in musical examples to live by. She has graced the stages of Western Washington’s musical theatre elite and has thirteen years of dancing and singing experience in New York City itself. She also choreographed TMP’s All Shook Up.
We’ve seen Sophia Palacios (Carla) in four of this season’s productions at TMP: 10 Minute Musicals, All Shook Up, Disenchanted, and Cinderella the Enchanted Edition. She has a nice voice and seems to love being on stage.
Brooke Peetz (Nina) played the young college girl who had the ability to be a success only to lose her scholarship and flunk out of Stanford from working too many jobs which left not time for studying. You could feel both her pain and that of her parents with enough left over for the Heights community.
Ever since seeing Loucas T. Curry in Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Tacoma Little Theatre, we have been a fan. He recently played Richie in TLT’s production of A Chorus Line. In Heights Loucas plays Benny, a friend of Usnavi and employee of Nina’s father’s cab company. When Nina’s father, Kevin (Miguel Torres), finds out that Benny and Nina have a date. He has a fit. Loucas has always come across as a successful and friendly cast member of each performance we’ve seen. When we see his name and photo in our program, we know we’re in for a good time.
Although is seemed like everyone on stage was a star, three people that really stood out for us were Carlos Barajas and his voice and smile, Richard Cubi for his manner and dance, and Julia Garrido. Julia, we both thought was the best dancer in the production. At the age of 17 we can only imagine what lines in store for this seventeen year old Spanish princess.
The dance captains Bannysa La Torre and Natalie Silva need a round of applause along with Fight Captain Andreya Pro (she/her) . . . okay, two or three rounds of applause. Musical director Daniel Wolfert, and Jimmy Shields as Director and Choreographer also deserve numerous rounds of applause.
When Peg and I took our front row/center seats we were blown away with the set design. We looked up from the floor and enjoyed the nuances of the store fronts, second floor apartments with their verandas . . . along with the George Washington Bridge in black shadow reaching out and up to the sky.
“Washington Heights is bordered by Inwood to the north along Dyckman Street, by Harlem to the south along 155th Street, by the Harlem River and Coogan’s Bluff to the east, and by the Hudson River to the west.” – Wikipedia
In the Heights plays through June 4th. Don’t miss it. – tmp.org/