New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood comes alive in Ventura in the Rubicon Theatre Company’s delightfully vibrant production of In the Heights. While the movie version of the show — with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes — was a pandemic cinematic bright spot for me in 2021, the live production is even more enjoyable.
Much of the show’s appeal comes from the beautiful voices of the cast. The pairing of Corinne Miller (as Nina, the neighborhood superstar student who returns home afraid to tell her family that she’s flunking out of Stanford) and Jalon Matthews (as Benny, her hard working, lovestruck suitor) is particularly strong. Their chemistry is great and their voices are even better.
Narrated by Ryan Reyes as Usnavi, who keeps the neighborhood fueled with café con leche from his bodega, Reyes does a solid turn in what can only be described as “the Lin-Manuel Miranda part.” He opens the show with the terrific title number, introducing both the neighborhood and its strong cast of characters whose day to day struggles with life in the barrio don’t prevent them from singing and dancing their hearts out.
The upbeat musical numbers are beautifully done, with impeccable attention paid to choreography and staging, as well as costuming and character. Among the standouts were “96,000,” an assemblage of dreams about winning the lottery, and “No Me Diga (You Don’t Say)” — both of which were not only highly entertaining, but also served to deepen the fabric of the neighborhood setting, as well as move the plot along.
Director/Choreographer Luis Salgado (a cast member and the Latin Assistant Choreographer in the original Broadway production) did a particularly great job with this cast: much more than background players, each member of the authentically diverse ensemble (playing an assortment of immigrants from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and more) brought a distinct and memorable flare to their roles.
Emotional depth and entertainment value come together to elevate the Rubicon’s production of In the Heights to a level that truly soars.
Absolutely worth the drive to Ventura, the show runs through November 13. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit rubicon theatre.org.or call (805)667-2900.