Littleton Town Hall Arts Center’s rendition of “In the Heights” is small in both venue and staging, but delivers a memorable production. Lin Manuel Miranda (creator of the Broadway hit “Hamilton”) tells the story of a street of neighbors in Washington Heights attempting to build relationships and lives, all the while with the aim of escape.
Usnavi, the protagonist of the drama, runs a small bodega with his cousin Sonny, and dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, he attempts to woo the lovely Vanessa. Next door, his friend Benny works dispatch at the Rosario’s car service. The Rosario’s work hard to support their daughter Nina’s Stanford tuition, while Benny works hard to win her heart.
Bookending the block are Daniela’s salon, where the women gossip and find camaraderie in Abuela Claudia’s home. While no one’s actual relative, Claudia acts as a grandmother figure to everyone in the barrio.
The musical soundtrack is an even mix of Latin jazz and rap, giving the narrative life as the drama unfolds.
Times are hard, and Daniela is forced to leave for the cheaper rent of the Bronx. Usnavi looks over his records and sees that the day before, he sold a winning lottery ticket to someone in their neighborhood for $96,000, and speculation fills the streets. Things go south for the two potential couples, and a blackout covers the barrio.
Things seem hopeless as we see young Sonny protecting the bodega from thugs on the darkened streets, until Abuela Claudia makes a revelation – hers was the winning lottery ticket, and she’s splitting the winnings with Usnavi and Sonny.
The music is light and rhythmic, complementing the hopeful story. The raps were performed quickly, and the solos hit with great volume and energy. Aside from some minor technical problems and a few pitchy notes to begin the show, the small production delivered on all fronts.
Songs like “Blackout” and “Carnaval del Barrio” inspire the audience to tap their feet, while the ballad “Alabanza” (Praise) nearly brings them to tears. And the Piragua Guy’s semi-constant presence on stage, selling snow cones and scraping by, is one of the musical’s highlights.
The show ends with an inspiring look upon the face of Abuela Claudia and a feeling of hope that the lives of those on the barrio will have a happy end. While the show left Oct 8, be sure to check out Littleton Town Arts Center’s other great productions.