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Marriott Theatre’s ‘In the Heights’: A Towering Production on Every Count: Review

While still flying high on the Marriott Theatre’s stunning production of “In the Heights” — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical that arrived on Broadway in 2008 — I will begin this review in a somewhat unconventional way.

With its theme of immigrant life in the largely Latino neighborhood of New York City’s Washington Heights in the 1980s, this show’s uncanny relevance to the immigration controversy now underway in this country could not be more ideal. And this is my message to Miranda, who conceived the show, and wrote both its high-energy music and lyrics that are fused with a sharply wired book by Quiara Alegria Hudes: Please come and see this exceptional production and find a way to produce it (with free tickets) for the many recent immigrants trying to plant roots throughout Chicago and New York. They will not only thrive on the show’s artful use of Spanish-language lyrics at a number of moments, but are bound to easily identify with the show’s many different characters.

And now, to the story that unfolds over the course of three steaming hot summer days during which a slew of different characters (many with roots in the Dominican Republic) deal with a variety of jobs, romantic relationships, family problems and money issues, and even struggle through a power blackout. The show has been ideally cast and superbly directed by James Vasquez on the Marriott’s in-the-round stage, with sensational (and thrillingly performed) choreography by William Carlos Angulo, and a terrific orchestra conducted by Noah Landis that will easily make you want to stand up and dance.

At the center of the show’s multi-faceted story are a slew of characters with many different goals. There is Usnavi (Joseph Morales), who owns a bodega and is in love with a beautician, Vanessa (Paola V. Hernandez). There is Nina (ideally played by Addie Morales), the daughter of Kevin (Rudy Martinez) and his wife, Camila (Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel), the owners of a taxi service. And there is Benny (Yasir Muhammad, a terrific singer/dancer/actor), the young ambitious Black man who helps runs the taxi business and has a serious interest in Nina, a relationship that her father cannot accept. Benny also has a big dream of starting his own cab business.

Kevin sees his daughter, who won an impressive scholarship to Stanford University, as the exceptional star of the coming generation. But burdened with part-time jobs while a first-year student, she has dropped out of Stanford, and her father is immensely upset by the news.

And there is a great deal more that unfolds in this musical, including a wonderfully winning turn by Chrissy Guerrero as Abuela Claudia, the high-spirited, much beloved and aging woman who not only learns she has a winning lottery ticket but hopes to return to the Dominican Republic. And then she suddenly dies.

All along the way the powerhouse voices and dancing of each and every member of the cast are ideal. And the sense that the community will soon be undergoing change is in the air. To get straight to the point: This is a show that is not to be missed.

“In the Heights” runs through March 17 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire. For tickets, visit or phone 847-634-0200.

One final note: “In the Heights” has arrived at the Marriott right on the heels of its standout production of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” The theater clearly appears to be on a roll. Its upcoming productions this season include “The Music Man,” “Beehive,” ”1776” and “White Christmas.”