"In the Heights" is a stage musical story I enjoy increasingly more every time I see it.
On Saturday, it was my fourth visit to "Heights." But this time, rather than a Broadway tour coming through town, it was the first local professional staging of "In the Heights," playing now at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in Aurora until Oct. 6.
Nominated in 2008 for 13 Tony Awards, taking home four including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestration, "In the Heights" is a favorite "new" Broadway show that ranks high on my list of audience enjoyment. Take a drive to see this run, and you won't be disappointed. There's free parking in the Hollywood Casino parking garage, just across the street (just flash one of the free gaming cards). The two and a half hours fly by in a breeze of escape.
It's the exuberant contemporary musical, so wonderfully staged here by Rachel Rockwell, following three days in the lives of residents living in New York's largely Hispanic Washington Heights neighborhood.
Aurora's Paramount Theatre, now launching its third Broadway subscription series, has tapped top talent with this production offering a casting I found far exceeded the non-equity Broadway tour that charged top dollar when it passed through Chicago in January 2012.
In fact, Aurora has a jam-packed season of fantastic offerings at a fair price. For as little as $73.80, subscribers can purchase "In the Heights" plus three Tony Award-winning best musicals at the Paramount for 2013-14 - "Miss Saigon" (directed by Jim Corti, Oct. 30-Nov. 24), "42nd Street" (directed by Rachel Rockwell, Jan. 15-Feb. 9, 2014) and "Rent" (directed by Jim Corti, March 12-April 6, 2014).
Conceived and featuring music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, with a book by Pulitzer Prize- winner Quiara Alegría Hudes, "In the Heights" transports audiences to a Latino streetscape on 183rd St. in New York City where change is unfolding. Nick Demeris is a perfect pick as Usnavi, owner of a small corner convenience store and the glue who seems to bond all of the residents together. The music and song score stay with long after the curtain has come down. Paula Scrofano still seems just a bit too young and beautiful to be the aging Abuela Claudia, but her persona for the characterization is a fit. Lillian Castillo as Carla and Keely Vasquez as Daniela are fun and in fine form as the local beauty shop gals. Ricardo Gutierrez plays Kevin and Lucinda Johnston is Camila, both equally strong forces as the owners of the local car and taxi service. Luis Herrera is great as store helper Sonny and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis is a very convincing wanna be taxi dispatcher Benny. Caitlainne Rose Gurreri steps into the heels of Vanessa, the lead love interest and Christina Nieves is beautifully voiced as Nina, while Kris Santiago rounds out the cast as Graffiti Pete and David Baida plays Piragua Guy.
Single tickets to "In the Heights" are also on sale for $36.90 to $49.90. FYI: ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666.