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Evaluation: Metropolis Springs’ “Within the Heights” is nearly impeccably staged and carried out

“He’s the one which did Hamilton” was an expression I heard fairly a couple of occasions from fellow patrons speaking to one another on the opening night time of Metropolis Springs Theatre Firm’s Within the Heights. That he can be Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose Hamilton turned not only a theater blockbuster however a popular culture sensation as nicely, with center college college students even capable of recite its iconic lyrics.  But, it was Within the Heights that catapulted Miranda to fame, and it’s a musical that holds up exceptionally nicely nowadays, particularly when dealt with with such care as it’s at Metropolis Springs.

Directed by Natalie Caruncho, this model is an affectionate and joyous manufacturing, virtually impeccably staged and carried out. Working by way of November 6 on the Byers Theatre on the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Heart, it needs to be fairly profitable. 

It’s very private work from Miranda, who wrote a primary draft as a sophomore in school. The narrator of the musical is Usnavi (Marcello Audino), who owns a small bodega in New York’s Washington Heights. His dad and mom died whereas he was a toddler, and he has been raised by the neighborhood’s heat and welcoming Abuela, Claudia (Nicole Paloma Sarro), who acts as a grandmother to virtually everybody. He has a crush on Vanessa (The Voice’s Erika Zade) and the 2 each dream of getting away. Whereas Usnavi wishes to return to the Dominican Republic, Vanessa needs to get her personal downtown house. 

Others within the fast space embody Daniela (Lilliana Quinones, reprising her position from the Aurora Theatre/ Theatrical Outfit 2016 model) and Carla (Rachel Zamorano Bonet), who personal a salon subsequent door and Kevin (Paul Aguirre) and Camila (Celina Polanco) Rosario, who function a cab firm. The Rosarios’ daughter Nina (Amanda Lopez) comes house and proclaims she has dropped out of faculty, which doesn’t go over nicely. She quickly finds herself rekindling a romance with Benny (Kyle Robert Carter), who works for her dad and mom and is Usnavi’s greatest buddy.

Many of those characters’ lives threaten to vary when Usnavi’s bodega sells a profitable lottery ticket. 

in the Heights
“Within the Heights” may be very a lot an ensemble work, and each performer feels lived-in and genuine.

Within the Heights covers three days over the most popular interval of the 12 months. Nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 2008, it gained 4 of them, together with Finest Musical. Whereas Hamilton is profound and sophisticated and a favourite for a lot of, I’ve all the time had a softer spot for Heights, even with a couple of quibbles relating to its extra of characters. 

Within the Heights offers with problems with household, immigration, gentrification and pleasure, with Usnavi questioning the place he suits in on the planet and slowly realizing that change is inevitable. It’s a musical with monumental affection towards its characters and a magnetic rating that comes with hip-hop, rap, salsa, merengue and jazz. 

The nationwide tour that got here by way of the Fox Theatre, courtesy of Broadway in America in 2009, was a combined bag, however I’ve liked the final two variations I’ve seen – the Aurora Theatre/ Theatrical Outfit collaboration in 2016 and now this one. 

Caruncho, making her debut with Metropolis Springs, has largely labored as a choreographer and dance captain on Broadway, the West Finish and on nationwide excursions. But, she proves herself right here to be totally able to directing right here. It’s electrical work, balancing cautious consideration to the musical’s themes but additionally profiting from the present’s signature numbers.

The titular “Within the Heights” begins the manufacturing off with a bang, and different highlights embody a wonderful take of “It Received’t Be Lengthy Now,” a rowdy “Carnaval del Barrio,” “96,000” (utilizing just about the complete solid) and a vastly efficient “Blackout,” a extremely theatrical piece with strobe lights wandering everywhere in the stage and past, ending the primary act on a excessive notice. Sarro’s tender “Paciencia y Fe (Endurance and Religion)” additionally stands out. 

In the Heights
Stuffed with power and pleasure, “Within the Heights” is likely one of the 12 months’s greatest productions.

Audino, who has been seen in a number of native high-profile musicals the final 5 years, described Usnavi as a dream position in a dream present. He’s a magnetic middle, charismatic and capable of navigate the rating’s calls for however doesn’t overwhelm the manufacturing. That is very a lot an ensemble work, and each performer feels lived-in and genuine. Carter and Sarro are not any strangers to the fabric; each have been in nationwide excursions of Within the Heights as nicely. The solid appear to be at a lot ease with one another {that a} technical glitch close to the top of the present didn’t derail them. 

I’ve seen variations of Within the Heights the place the choreography will be too busy for its personal good. Leo Lam’s work together with his firm members and dancers right here is restrained at occasions but additionally ingenious and spirited when want be, comparable to in “The Membership” and the aforementioned “Carnaval del Barrio.” Anna Louizos’s scenic design, Angel Warren’s costume design and Bert Rodriguez’s work with a 13-person orchestra are additionally value particular notice.  

Metropolis Spring’s mission because it opened in 2017 has been to carry Broadway caliber work to the world. Its creative director is Tony Award-winner and Atlanta native Shuler Hensley. Earlier this 12 months, the corporate staged a rousing model of A Refrain Line, directed by authentic solid member Baayork Lee. Its follow-up, West Facet Story, wasn’t almost as strong, attributable to some weak hyperlinks in its ensemble, but Within the Heights brings Metropolis Springs again to kind. Stuffed with power and pleasure, it is likely one of the 12 months’s greatest productions. 


Jim Farmer covers theater and movie for ArtsATL. A graduate of the College of Georgia, he has written in regards to the arts for 30-plus years. Jim is the pageant director of Out on Movie, Atlanta’s LGBTQ movie pageant. He lives in Avondale Estates together with his husband, Craig, and canine, Douglas.



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