Sunday, September 8, 2019

In The Heights—Portland Center Stage—Pearl District

        Home is Where the Heart Is

    This award-winning musical, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator also of the award-winning, “Hamilton”) & book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and directed by May Adrales, choreography by William Carlos Angulo and music direction by Eugenio A. Vargas, is playing at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., through October 13th.  For more information, go to their site at or call 503-445-3700

    This is, without a doubt, with all the inhumanity with immigrants going on at the border today, a very topical story.  America calls itself a civilized country, but when we choose to traumatize children at the border and separate families, simply for political purposes, this is not only Not civilized, but inhumane, as well.  Shame on us!

    And so, we have, the Washington Heights neighborhood, during one long, hot summer of not too long ago.  Our guide into this gnarly garden of contained wonders, is Usnavi (Ryan Alavarado), a gregarious, street vendor and grocery store owner, with his younger brother, Sonny (Nicolas Garza), a cool, young tomcat.  There is also their caring grandma, Abuela Claudia (Debra Cardona).
His neighbors are the Rosario’s, Kevin/Poppy (Tony Chiroldes), a no-nonsense guy, who own a Limo service with his gutsy wife, Camila (Karmine Alers).  And they have a petite, Stanford-college daughter, Nina (Sophia Macias), who has an admirer in Benny, the family-businesses’ dispatcher.

    Another focal point, in this extended neighborhood, is the hub of communication, the Beauty Salon, run by a trio of vivacious vixens, Carla (Paola  Hernandez), Daniela (Lillian Castillo), the owner, and Vanessa (Alyssa V. Gomez), who has an admirer in Usnavi.  All dreaming of the world, out there…a better life…their Errant Knight. 

    Also, into this colorful ensemble, is Benny (Alez Nicholson), a carefree guy, dispatcher at the Limo service, who has his loving eye on Nina (and she on him).  And then, there is the optimistic, Piragua Guy (Henry Gainza), who has a food cart; the elusive, Graffiti Pete (UJ Mangune), who will eventually find his true calling; and many other, street-smart individuals, who flesh out the rest of the neighborhood and add a spicy flavor to this marvelous menagerie of dreamers.
Their world is mostly contained, but with Rooftop Dreams and Champagne Tastes, it will evolve in time.  Then, a night of fireworks and a blackout will change everything.  Their patch of earth will collide with the unknown and what was, will be no longer…but this sky, full of stars, will lead to a new dawning.

    Can’t tell you too much, as it would spoil discoveries you should make.  And songs such as “Atencion,” “Everything I Know,”  “When Your Home,” “Patiencia Y Fe,” “Inutil,” et. al. and the dance numbers are fabulous.  The voices and talent of the entire cast is so alive, it spills over into one’s very being.  Adrales & Angulo have done an amazing job of keeping everything alive and vibrant, and visceral, as well.  Vargas and his music-makers are alive with the rhythm and designers, Scenic (Tim Mackabee), Costumes (David Israel Reysono) and especially, Lighting (Robert J. Aguilar) add mightily to the marvels displayed.

    I highly recommend this play.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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