Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires

In the Heights
Downtown Cabaret Theatre
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Also see Zander's review of Last Train to Nibroc

Marcelo Calderon (center) and Cast
Photo by Kevin McNair
Downtown Cabaret Theatre is currently presenting a lively and flavorful production of Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes' Tony Award winning musical In the Heights. Staged on a colorful set, nicely designed by William Russell Stark, and featuring fantastic projections by Ricky Mestre, this show is a real delight, with wonderful performances by the entire cast. Director Christy McIntosh-Newsom has staged with a lot of verve, which befits this musical perfectly. This is one of the most ambitious productions that I have seen at Downtown Cabaret Theatre and they manage to do full justice to this musical.

Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda is better known now as the creator of the phenomenon called Hamilton (and there is one funny reference to that show in this production), but his score for In the Heights also displays just how talented this composer is. It is a pleasure to hear these songs performed by this cast and their rocking off-stage band featuring awesome musical direction by Eli Newsom.

In the central role of Usnavi, Marcelo Calderon is pretty great and he can rap with the best of them. But his performance is much more than that: He is also extremely appealing and he leads the show splendidly. As as Nina Rosario, Jessica Paige Braun also stands out and she brings a strong voice and a touching vulnerability to the role. As the guy Nina is interested in, benny, Everton Ricketts shines, and Nina's parents are expertly portrayed by Perry Liu and Julie Bell Petrak. As Abuela Claudia, the woman who watches over the neighborhood, Celia Ortiz gives a dream of a performance, with her numbers "Paciencia Y Fe (Patience and Faith)" and "Hundreds of Stories" being highlights.

In supporting roles, Alexis Willoughby has voice to spare as Daniela, and there's equally good work by Joyce C. Ramirez as Carla and Ana Feliciano as Yolanda. Playing the apple of Usnavi's eye, Vanessa, the pretty and talented Olivia Grace Rivera is a wonder. Joe Cardozo excels as Usnavi's young assistant Sonny, and Joshua Cardozo makes his mark as Graffiti Pete, especially in the show's final moments. Finally, Nicholas Kuell is a joy as the Piragua Guy, who steals nearly every scene he is in.

Director Christy McIntosh-Newsom can be commended for eliciting such fine performances from her cast and she keeps the stage teeming with life throughout. McIntosh-Newsom is aided immeasurably by choreographer Emily Frangipane, who has staged the exuberant dance numbers with unerring flair. The costume design by Jessica Camarero is entirely appropriate and the lighting design by Phill Hill is ideal.

In the Heights concludes Downtown Cabaret Theatre's season with a lot of energy and zest; it's a show that leaves one feeling exhilarated. By all means, get to this In the Heights for an evening of fun and excitement as it brings an entire neighborhood to life before your eyes.

In the Heights continues performances at Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, CT through May 21, 2017. For tickets, please visit or call the box office at 203-576-1636.

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