SCHENECTADY — Gotta tell ya there’s a show, you know, that’s dynamite at SLOC/About a neighborhood — Latino — and the people on the block/ They be living lives of quiet desperation but some riot/To get up and out and see new life and try it/“In the Heights” I mean, Jack, “In the Heights.”
Now before he hit with “Hamilton,” our crazy boy Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote this musical, with rap beat/Salsa feet and hips and funny lines and sadness too/‘Cause life without no money ain’t no milk and honey/Dig? “In the Heights,”, hijo – -“In the Heights.”
It’s a hot day in the Heights and folks be dragging sorry faces/Usnavi’s small bodega ain’t the kind of place he wants no more/He’d rather find a sandy shore and drink it cool/And Nina just dropped out of school, she’s such a fool/Her Papi says: “Escape The Heights, child! — Don’t be wild, child!”
But here comes Benny, friendly, see, and Nina is his destiny!/Vanessa dreams of getting dough to get out of the Barrio/That Pete graffiti artist tags. The girls who run the hair salon/Will soon be gone, and old Abuela dreams of home/Before she came to Washington — the Heights in NYC.
Lin-Manual Miranda’s the real deal, the music man, not me. My job is to lapse dutifully into prose and tell you (A) there are no more tickets to this show: a sold-out run. Good for Schenectady Light Opera Company, and bad for anyone who doesn’t already have a ticket or who can’t make a BFF of director Peter Caracappa in the next few days, and (B) you’re missing a fabulous night in the theater, unless someone sends you a pirated version—that’s right, a few folks were filming Act I until the box office manager, Jeff Hocking, told them to stop.
Why is the show so fine? Can I mention the audience? On fire. Young people, friends of the cast, I bet, who react to everything and give right back to the performers some feel-good energy. The production zips along, and the actors have it right — the beat, the moves, the music, the snap, thanks to Caracappa and music director Daniel Galliher (hot band, too) and choreographer Gregory Theodore Marsh. Everyone in the building is pumped up.
Jonathan Lajas makes a charming Usnavi, and he lays down the standard for what’s to come with a tongue-twisting opening rap monologue that introduces the setting and the members of the barrio. For sheer vocal thrills on some lovely ballads, Taina Asili (Abuela), Amanda Serrano (Vanessa), Carmen Lookshire (Nina), and Francesco C. Archina (Benny) deliver the goods. Comedy? The kinetic Joshua DeMarco and Joshua Powell and the “oh-no-you-didn’t” Elizabeth Sherwood-Mack are the go-to performers, but the talent is deep throughout, from every solo performer to the tightly-working ensemble.
The costume and set values are strong, but on opening night there were a few lighting and audio problems. No doubt these snafus will be cleared up for the rest of the run.
Matthew W. Coviello’s production comes to a thrilling conclusion with a song about home/where you’re never alone and everything is a-ight/”In the Heights.” “In the Heights”!