Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics light up a blackout
Hamilton won’t premiere in Denver until Feb. 27, but the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton is offering desperate fans a Lin-Manuel Miranda fix by producing his first Tony-award-winning musical, In the Heights, from Sept. 8 to Oct. 8.
Set over the course of a multi-day blackout, In the Heights unravels the lives of those who share the same block in New York City’s Washington Heights. The neighborhood is trembling on the precipice of change: with rent skyrocketing and financial disparity widening every day, the immigrant heavy population is united in their shared dream of leaving the Heights behind.
Usnavi (Jose David Reynoza) hopes to close his bodega and return to the Dominican Republic for the first time as an adult; Vanessa (Sarah Harmon) works tirelessly to leave her alcoholic mother’s apartment and make her way closer to Midtown: and Nina (Rose Van Dyne) starts the show by announcing she lost her scholarship at Stanford, a reveal that upsets her neighbors’ dreams of being the next to make it out. Halfway into the first act, Usnavi learns that he sold a winning lottery ticket from his own bodega—meaning someone in the Heights is set to collect a life changing prize of $96,000.
The Town Hall Arts Center’s intimate theater in downtown Littleton doesn’t have a bad seat to sell. The audience surrounds a stage that is flush with front row and extends into the walkways, establishing an interactive atmosphere for every viewer in the house. Because the front row is practically on stage, scenic designer Tim Barbiaux’s work had to look realistic from as little as five feet away, and the effect is stunning: the show’s storefronts are crowded with details so small that they create a secondary narrative. Even a bulletin board behind the dispatch desk is packed with Easter eggs.
Although there’s not a bad player in the cast, Reynoza’s Usnavi is especially impressive in his ability to keep up with Miranda’s syntactically dense raps. His dialogue delivery falls slightly flat in comparison, but that only serves to highlight his lyrical mastery. Likewise, Van Dyne’s Nina can belt the best of Broadway out of the water—after she completes her musical theater degree at the University of Northern Colorado next spring, audiences should expect to find her in Denver’s top venues.
This production of In the Heights scorches. Each performer brings the heat of a New York City summer day to the stage, and each brings their respective character to life by fully embracing the passion that earned this show four Tonys, a Grammy, and a Pulitzer nomination. Catch it before it’s gone.
Location: Town Hall Arts Center 2450 W. Main St., Littleton, CO 80120
Day & Time: Thurs. and Fri. At 7:30PM & Sun. at 2PM