Successful Broadway musical has a new production at CASA 0101
There are unmistakable parallels between the plot of “In the Heights” and the lives of Boyle Heights residents. The Broadway musical, winner of four Tony Awards, is set in New York City’s Washington Heights, a neighborhood much like the multicultural community on the east side of the Los Angeles River.
Besides having similar names, both are neighborhoods of working people struggling to maintain strong family ties and deep roots in their communities. Both are communities near a large urban center — Manhattan or downtown L.A. — and both have bridges crossing the river that surrounds them.
These coincidences provide an interesting backdrop to the new production of “In the Heights,” presented by the New Horizons Theatre Group at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights. Fortunately this is not an adaptation, but a full production faithful to the original, by a group of actors and artists truly dedicated to performing arts.
Rigo Tejeda leads a huge cast — there are 12 characters plus 10 choir singers and dancers — with careful attention to detail. He collaborates with a successful group of artists, among them the scenery and costume designers, Abel Alvarado and Marcos de León, respectively. Lazareno Daniel deserves special mention for his choreography that shines in the intimate space of CASA 0101.
The cast is more than professional: Michael Torrenueva achieves with dignity the very difficult duty of recreating the character Usnavi, so closely linked to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who conceived the Broadway musical and wrote the lyrics and music for the play (working from the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes).
“In the Heights” tells the story of Usnavi, the owner of a bodega (small corner store) that is the heart of a neighborhood full of people who care for each other as if they were family. When the abuela (grandmother) of the neighborhood wins the lottery and decides to share it with Usnavi, he decides it is time to leave the area and return to the Dominican Republic, where his parents emigrated from. Fate, of course, gets in the way.
This story is beautifully told in the sensational musical numbers that made “In the Heights” a Broadway success. But the musical was originally produced in a more intimate playhouse outside the theater district, a venue perhaps like CASA 0101.
This production of New Horizons Theatre Group represents a major milestone for the Boyle Heights theater as the first Broadway musical to be presented there. As such, it is an experience that residents of the neighborhood, and the whole city, should not miss.
“In the Heights” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. through Dec. 22 at CASA 0101, 2102 E. First St., Los Angeles. Tickets start at $35 (discounts for students, seniors and children). Call (213) 200-6161 for more information.
Images courtesy of CASA 0101.