by Destiney Warren
In The Heights (Lin Manuel-Miranda’s first musical before Hamilton) is on stage again in the Central Valley, this time presented by the College of the Sequoia’s drama department. This story about family and community is sure to make you laugh (and cry) as you follow one neighborhood in New York City through the everyday lives and struggles of its members. I had heard a lot about this play and COS did not disappoint. I immediately fell in love with the characters—and yes I actually cried, it was THAT good.
The play follows a character named Usnavi who owns the local “bodega,” or corner store, that the rest of the characters frequent. He lives with his abuela and has his younger cousin Sonny help him. While he takes care of the store, we see him daydreaming about escaping to an island far from New York City. As he interacts with all the rest of the characters, like Vanessa who works at the local salon, Nina the first of the neighborhood to get out and go to college, Benny her love interest who works at the her father’s limousine shop and more, we see how close knit the community is, and we can’t help but root for them.
One of the things that really stood out to me is how fantastic the set was. I really felt like I was in New York, and I could tell the time and effort that went into preparing it. They had the Manhattan Bridge far in the distance providing depth, while the storefronts up close had amazing detail.
Usnavi, played by Dominic Grijalva, is a character that you can’t help falling in love with. A down to earth store owner whom you can tell loves his family and community. What else can you ask for? Grijalva delivered a wonderful performance, even nailing the rapping parts with ease.
Iris Brito, who plays Abuela Claudia, also wows with her beautiful song “Paciencia y Fe” or Patience and Faith. This song which embodies her worldview makes us feel for the struggles of immigrants who have come to the USA and New York in search of a better life while also inspiring a deep admiration for them. Brito’s vocals were spot on as well as her performance as the person who is the glue that keeps the community together.
Two other characters whose performances were amazing were Rebekah Robles, who plays Nina, and Johnathan Jones, who plays Benny. Both characters shined and Nina’s song “Breathe” was the perfect balance between emotional and beautiful. We can’t help but love Benny as he attempts to learn Spanish and raps while dispatching the limousine drivers at Nina’s father’s business.
When it comes down to it, what really made me love this play was how real all the characters felt. This is a play that deals with everyday people and COS did a wonderful job with making sure these characters were played in that vein. I also loved that this is a play that makes sure that there was representation for races and cultures that are often underrepresented.
This is definitely a play you don’t want to miss. There are a few cuss words, a few moments of humor that your grandma may find inappropriate (depending on your grandma), and that you may want to cover your kids ears for but they are few. Otherwise this is a play that is perfect for all ages.
The remaining performances are at COS, 915 S Mooney Blvd. in Visalia, on March 16, 17, and 18 at 7:30 p.m. There is also a matinee at 2 p.m. on March 19. The March 19 performance also has signers for those in the audience who may be deaf or hard of hearing. Tickets are $24 for the general public, $22 for seniors, and $20 for students. You can purchase tickets online at costheatre.org/tickets or you can get them in person at the COS Box office or by calling 730-3907.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.