‘Heights’ brings Latin flavor to stage

Posted April 1, 2013


Actors’ Playhouse is bringing a bit of Latin flavor to the Miracle Theatre through April 7 with its production of Tony Award-winning “In The Heights.”

Set in Washington Heights, New York, during early July, the musical tells the story of a group of friends and family who live in a predominantly Latin neighborhood. The plot tends to revolve around Usnavi (Nick Duckart), a convenience store owner, who tells the audience about his struggles with love, business and life through rap.

While Usnavi tries to get the courage to ask Vanessa (Christie Padres) out, salon owner Daniela (Elise Santora) gets ready to move her business to the Bronx. In the meantime, Nina (Sarah Amengual) – the neighborhood’s pride and joy – comes back from her first year at Stanford University with a big secret she’s keeping from her parents, Kevin (Oscar Cheda) and Camila (Denise Sanchez).

Such a complex plot driven by several story lines requires a talented cast and that’s just what the Actors’ Playhouse is giving its audiences. The characters – and the cast, consisting of local actors as well as Broadway actors – make the production work so well. You find yourself rooting for each character throughout the musical. The actors are incredibly talented and make their characters come alive; not only can they sing and act, but they can also dance.

Choreographer Stephanie Klemons does a marvelous job of utilizing every inch of the stage. Combined with the musical’s catchy and upbeat Latin songs – performed live by eight musicians directed by Manny Schvartzman – the choreography brings this production of “In The Heights” to another level. The ensemble of dancers is extraordinary, particularly Jose-Luis Lopez, who was also in the musical on Broadway.

Moreover, the cast effortlessly portrays the charming characters. Standout performances include Doreen Montalvo’s Abuela Claudia and Cheda’s portrayal of Nina’s father, Kevin. Both performers flawlessly depict the typical Latin grandmother and father. The duo shines during numbers like “Inútil” – a powerful performance from Cheda – and Montalvo’s “Paciencia y Fé (Patience and Faith).”

The understated set design is incredible as well; it manages to set the right tone and ambiance for the audience without excessively trying to recreate the actual setting of Washington Heights.

Every audience member will develop a personal connection to the production and its characters. Between the cast’s impressive performances and the catchy music, there is no way anyone will leave the theater disappointed after watching Actors’ Playhouse’s “In The Heights.”

  • “In The Heights”
  • Cast: Nick Duckart, Elise Santora, Christie Padres, Oscar Cheda, Doreen Montalvo, Denise Sanchez
  • Running through April 7
  • Ticket prices: $28 to $44
  • Performance dates and times: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
  • Location: Actors’ Playhouse
    • 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
    • 305-444-9293