It opened with a bang. There were colors, textures, and movement everywhere. Bishop Canevin's production of "In the Heights" was extraordinary. I had the pleasure of seeing it on opening night when the energy is at its highest. The cast was fantastic, energetic, and very talented. They really put on a great show and I was happy to have the chance to see it.
The show opens with a mix of singing and rapping that has a very modern feel. As the story progresses, you meet a colorful cast of characters living in Washington Heights, far uptown in New York. Usnavi, a convenience store owner opens his shop and greets his fellow neighbors and friends. He meets his younger cousin Sonny and his Abuela Claudia who is a motherly figure to the others in the community. You also meet Nina, who has returned from her first year of college. Nina's parents own a taxi service and have employed Nina's friend, Benny. The two meet again and are happy to see each other successful.
Leaving the two friends to catch up, the scene then focuses on a hair salon across the street. Vanessa, who is unhappy with her job at the salon, wishes to move someplace better. She is scoffed at by Daniella, the owner of the salon, and her ditzy friend, Carla. Vanessa goes to talk to Sonny and Usnavi about this. Too nervous to do it himself, Usnavi has Sonny ask Vanessa out for him. She agrees.
Meanwhile Nina meets her parents, Kevin and Camilla, and tells them that she dropped out of school because she lost her scholarship. They are both extremely upset. Kevin remembers his own struggles and how he vowed that he would make a good life for his family. Later, Nina and Benny take a walk around the neighborhood and reminisce. The romantic tension builds and the couple starts to fall in love.
After their walk, Benny attends dinner with Nina and her family. This is where Kevin announces that he has sold the family business to pay for Nina's school tuition. Tensions rise as Benny and Kevin argue and the scene ends with Kevin demanding that family comes first. Then at the club, Vanessa and Usnavi's date has gone askew. They try to make each other jealous, which ends with a big fight. Just as the tension has reached its peak, the city is plunged into a blackout. Usnavi runs away to see if Abuela Claudia is okay in the dark. Benny and Nina manage to escape the club and head back to Benny's apartment. This concludes act one.
In act two, the city is still in the midst of a blackout, and Benny and Nina have spent the night together. Nina knows her father will be upset with their new relationship, but she is happy to be with Benny. During a street carnival, Usnavi announces that Abuela Claudia has died. Usnavi is so upset, he wants to sell his store and move away. This upsets Vanessa and Sonny, who try to convince him to stay. Later when Nina and Usnavi are going through Abuela Claudia's things, Nina decides to go back to school like her father wants. Benny is a little upset about her decision, but is willing to make their relationship work. The next morning, Usnavi comes to close his shop and is prepared to leave. However, when he sees the mural of Abuela Claudia painted on the store's grate, commissioned by Sonny, he changes his mind. Usnavi realizes that his true home is "In the Heights."
Bishop Canevin's "In the Heights was very professional. The set was very cool, it was urban and fit in nicely with the blocking. This was a very energetic show, with many dance numbers and fast paced choreography. The entire cast had such palpable energy, it radiated from each person onstage. You could tell that each and every cast member put 110% into their performance. They worked very hard and all of that work payed off.
The actors did an exceptional job of bringing their characters to life. I thought that Noah Lheureau as Benny, did a fantastic job. He has a very sweet voice and is a good actor. Patrick Clarke as Kevin did a beautiful job singing "Inutil." Despite this being his first show, Andrew Graziano did a wonderful job as Usnavi. Jacob Urbanek was great as Sonny. He was very comical and fun to watch. Katie Kennedy, who played the part of Nina, did a lovely job. She has a very strong and pretty voice. Katelyn Maurer was a fantastic actress with her role as Abuela Claudia. Another wonderful actress and addition to the show was Gabrielle Salopek. She was perfect in the fiery role of Daniela. She had great energy and got a lot of laughs out of the audience.
Despite a few minor technical issues and a few awkward moments in the beginning, the show was a success. The entire cast had fantastic energy, and remained vibrant throughout the entire show.
This show is about family and the true meaning of home. It was very touching. The wholeness of the community and the feeling of family was very evident. The cast did a wonderful job of getting that message out to the audience. If the objective of the show was to lift the audience up, then they pulled it off.
"In the Heights" ran April 25-27.
The Kelly Critics is a joint program of the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh CLO's Gene Kelly Awards for Excellence in High School Musicals, in which students at Kelly schools review musicals at other Kelly schools. Reviews are edited by senior theater critic Christopher Rawson.