“In the Heights” Shimmers at the Ordway

It’s the story of loss to love and defeat to triumph.

Kelly Holm, Reporter

Long before Lin-Manuel Miranda inspired a newfound passion for theatre and history in the hearts of millions of Americans with “Hamilton,” he put himself on the Broadway map through “In the Heights.” Although the musical, set in Manhattan’s predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights, debuted in New York’s famed theatre district in 2008, Miranda was just a college sophomore when he wrote the earliest draft of its musical score, in 1999. Although the tunes are lively and the book is peppered with wisecracks, “In the Heights” tackles difficult issues facing many underprivileged communities today, such as gentrification and the pressure that first-generation college students feel to succeed- and, of course, the timeless theme of love in the face of uncertainty.


Val Nuccio shines as Nina, a young woman wracked with the shame of losing her scholarship at Stanford due to the fact that she spent all her time working instead of studying in order to pay the remainder of her tuition. Through the emotional ballad “Breathe,” Nuccio makes the audience connect with her character’s pain- no matter where we’ve been in life, we all know what it’s like when dreams don’t come true. The audience’s hearts are warmed when her love interest, Benny (Stephen Scott Wormley) cheers her up with childhood memories and her father, Kevin (Pedro R. Bayon), bravely sells the family business in order to pay for her to return to school.


Justin Gregory Lopez plays leading male and quasi-narrator Usnavi, who was named by his immigrant parents after one of the first things they saw upon arriving in New York, a ship with the words “US Navy” on it, and his personality is just as endearing as the story behind his name: in the titular opening number he raps, “You must take the A train/Even farther than Harlem to northern Manhattan and maintain/Get off at 181st, and take the escalator/I hope you’re writing this down, I’m gonna test you later”. Here Usnavi owns a small bodega with his cousin Sonny. While his main ambition is to win the heart of his neighbor Vanessa, he still dreams of returning to the Dominican Republic, his birthplace.


Spirits will be lifted by upbeat musical numbers such as the gossipy “No Me Diga,” the

romantic, nostalgic duet “When You’re Home,” and the goofy “Piragua,” the latter performed by

a street vendor trying to sell the Puerto Rican frozen treat. The soundtrack isn’t all fun and games, however – numerous audience members could be heard shedding tears after the candlelight hymn “Alabanza,” sung after neighborhood matriarch Abuela Claudia (Debra Cardona) succumbs to the summer heat.


At the end of the day, “In the Heights” tells a story of loss to love and defeat to triumph. It will make anyone greater appreciate the community they hold dear.