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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 17, 2012

In The Heights Review: A Joyful Musical Experience All Theater Lovers Should Not Miss

WE FAILED to see “In the Heights” in its original run so we made sure we didn’t miss its repeat at the Carlos Romulo Theatre at the RCBC Plaza Makati. The Tony Award-winning musical is such a joyful experience all theatre lovers shouldn’t miss. It has a good story, great songs and hot dance numbers.

The musical is set at Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, once a predominantly Irish community now peopled by Latinos, and manages to touch on valid issues about migration and loyalty to your roots, family, filial and romantic love, as well as hope and dreams. The setting itself is very much a character of its own, underlining the inter-connectedness of the various other characters.

The cast is exemplary. Nyoy Volante is incredible as Uznavi, owner of a deli-grocery store who dreams of returning to his native Dominican Republic. He’s known as an acoustic singer, but he succeeds in delivering all his rap songs with tongue-twisting lyrics flawlessly. He’s secretly in love with Vanessa (Ima Castro), a beautician who wants to move downtown. The other pair of lovers is composed of Nina Rosario (K-la Rivera), who left college at Stanford and has a hard time telling about it to her parents, and Benny (Felix Rivera), who works for her parents’ car business. Also giving great support are Jay Glorioso as the touching Abuela Claudia, Tex Ordonez as the bubbly Daniela (the beauty parlor owner who succeeds in being very Latina in interpreting her role), Bibo Reyes as the zany cousin Sonny, and Jackie Lou Blanco and Cavin Millado as Nina’s parents.

K-la is impressive in singing “Breathe” (which reveals her hardships in college) and “Everything I Know” (sung as she looks at old photographs.) Calvin shines in “Inutil (Useless) and Jackielou in “Enough”. The most exhilarating ensemble pieces are “In the Heights” (the opening title song), “96,000” (where the characters dream of how their lives would change if they won the lottery, after Uznavi discovers his shop sold the winning ticket), “Carnaval del Barrio” (a truly bouncy production number), “Blackout” (when the whole community suffers from power failure) and “Finale” (where Uznavi decides to stay after seeing the memorial mural done for Abuela Claudia.) Jimmy Marquez is a show-stopper as the Piragua Guy (selling a cold concoction like our own scramble.)
You have until March 26 to catch this wonderful musical at RCBC. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the original creator on Broadway, flew to Manila to personally watch it and he was called to join the cast on stage at curtain call. He has nothing but superlative praises for the Manila cast. For tickets, call 892-7078 or 840-1187.)