Movies & TV | Out on the Town

Award-Winning Play “In The Heights” Is All About Community

 Hard work, faith and support can get you the “American Dream.”

In The Heights

Tony award and Grammy-winning musical In the Heights had its opening night in Toronto on Tuesday February 7, 2012 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

The story, written by Lin Manuel-Miranda, follows the lives of Latin immigrants living in the neighbourhood of Washington Height’s in Manhattan, New York City. Each character shares their struggles of creating a better life for themselves in a new country:

Lead character Usnavi (played by understudy Jeffrey Nunez) is taken under the wings of Abuela—that’s grandma, but not by blood—Claudia (Christina Aranda), because his parents passed away shortly after emigrating from the Dominican Republic. To get by, Usnavi operates a bodega with the assistance of his cousin, Sonny (Robert Ramirez). He aspires to return to his parents’ birthplace someday, in order to better understand the stories they told him.

Nina (Virginia Cavaliere) returns home from her first year at Stanford University with some bad news for her parents—and the community. With little finances, her parents face the tough decision of whether or not they should sell their auto repair shop to help support Nina’s dream to obtain a college degree.

Usnavi’s crush, Vanessa (Presilah Nunez), has a hard time balancing her finances between saving up for her own place in downtown Manhattan, and supporting her addict mother.

Collectively, the community seeks ways to help one another, so one day they can all reach their goal of living the American Dream.

In The Heights

Here’s the run down:

Feel-Good Story: You can really grasp how tight-knit the community is as they work to keep each other’s spirits up during difficult times—while gossiping about EVERYBODY’s business! The actors did a great job portraying their characters and conveying the emotions.

Singing and Dancing: The Latin influence was very present in the music and choreography. Kudos to the live band for not missing a beat, and making you want to dance in your seat! There is no doubt the actors can sing, though some could have projected their voices a little more to rise above the music. The dancing could also use some improvement, especially in the Latin sequences.

Set Design: The amazing set really captured the essence of the In The Heights neighbourhood portrayed in the story. But still, for variety’s sake, it would’ve been nice to see some set changes to reflect the shifts in the storyline.

In The Heights

¿Habla Español?: Although it’s not imperative to understanding the storyline, you may want to brush up on some basic Spanish prior to coming to the show as some Spanish is used in the dialogue and song lyrics. ¿Bueno?

“In The Heights” is now playing at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until February 19, 2012. Tickets can be purchased at

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