By Jennifer Mustoe
Having never been to the Ogden Amphitheater and never seen In the Heights by the now wildly popular Lin-Manual Miranda—who wrote the music and lyrics, book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, I was pretty excited. I know Director Austin Archer’s work and admit to being a huge fan of his. The Amphitheater is lovely—spacious with seats in the front and a lovely grassy berm for patrons to spread a blanket on and settle down for a night of theater.
But can one “settle down” for In the Heights? I answer with an emphatic No! As we walked in, spicy Salsa music played. After listening to the opening remarks in Spanish (which I understood but my non-Spanish-speaking family did not), the high-energy show began.
First, this show is Important. It tells the story of a barrio in New York and shows the strife, the poverty, the depression of the place. It also shows the love, the camaraderie, the friendship, the loyalty, the fun. It is a total, pure, untainted picture. This is the story of a certain community—most of them Latinos, though other ethnicities are represented as well.
The music is incredible! The rapping by remarkable Jacob Barnes as Usnavi De La Vega is out of this world. The family closeness (too close?) of the Rosario family: mother Camila (Katie Evans), father Kevin (Stephen Sherman-Mills), and Stanford student daughter Nina (Becca Burdick.)—I was completely convinced of this family’s strong ties. We loved Evans’ fierce motherhood, Sherman-Mills’ “I am the father and what I say goes” attitude (and how the women basically say, whatever.) But Burdick’s pipes, acting—the whole package—blew us away. She is fantastic. Her duets with Benny (Gray McKenzie) are pure gold.
Each principal has an amazing voice. The harmonies of the hairdresser ladies, Daniela (Tamara Howell) and Carla (Erica Walters) are wonderful, and their fun bickering was completely believable. Abuela Claudia (Tamara Howell) and Piragua Guy (Dee Tuo’one) are also wonderful singers. Gosh—did Archer cast the best or what? Music Director Ginger Bess Simons pulls everything possible out of a truly remarkable set of voices.
And the dancing—the dancing! Archer choreographed all but one number (“96,000” by McKenzie, whose moves are sexy and smooth and sensational.) Dance Captain Emily Bokinski rocked the stage, followed by talent that went from good to perfect.
This show may be considered almost an operetta as much of the dialogue is sung, and there is so much movement on the stage, the show never stops.
I was under the impression that In the Heights may be inappropriate for younger audiences, but really, if your child likes singing and dancing—they will love this show. There are a few swears and some violence, but it’s remarkably tame. They see way more in any of those popular superhero movies. And the messages in this show, often told in awesome rapping, are as I said, important. It is a little late, though, but I saw happy littles at the show.
I knew I was in for a treat with In the Heights, but it exceeded my expectations. I drove from Spanish Fork to see it. It’s worth the drive.
Good Company Theater presents In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes Ogden Amphitheater, 343 E 25th Street, Ogden, UT 84401 August 11-21, Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8:00 PM Tickets: $20, $15 Contact: 801-917-4969 email@example.com Facebook Page