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REVIEW: In The Heights At Countryside Community Theatre

OMG! I attended my first ever performance by Countryside Community Theatre this past weekend for its Quad Cities’ history making current production that sports a majority Latinx cast directed by Kris Doss.

In the Heights is a musical with concept, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, of Hamilton fame, and book by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes. It was nominated for 13 Tonys, winning 4, including Best Musical and also won the Lawrence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Achievement.

The story is set over the course of the three hottest days of summer – the 4th of July holiday – and involves characters in the largely Dominican American neighborhood of Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. The main characters are Usnavi, a local bodega owner, his cousin Sonny, his grandmother Claudia, his love interest, Vanessa, and local cab company owners Kevin and Camilla Rosario and their daughter, Nina, and Nina’s love interest Benny.

The plot revolves around folks who are working their tails off to “make it” out of the barrio to achieve the proverbial “American Dream;” that dynamic amps up when Claudia wins $96,000 in the lottery.

Obviously, as a reviewer, I attend a LOT of local theatre and, yet, except for the well-known to the QC theatre scene, Cindy Ramos  as Claudia, I did not recognize ANY of the other exceptional performers. Where have they been? Jacob Johnson, himself a second generation Puerto Rican immigrant, gave a heartwarming, authentic performance as Usnavi and Keith Wright, a Davenport Central High School student, brought in a performance as Benny worthy of a much more mature actor.

Even more amazing, this blockbuster cast of 25 contained 9 teenagers and was a family affair with a mother and daughter in the ensemble plus another daughter in the crew, a mother and daughter as main characters Daniela and Nina played by Violeta and Abi Jensen, respectively, and sister and brother, as main characters Vanessa and Sonny, played by Mia and Micah Roldán; amazing voices…amazing acting all around.

Believe me, you will need to restrain yourself from dancing in the aisles to this upbeat and joyous score and you won’t even notice that the show runs slightly over three hours due in part to numerous scene changes of massive set pieces to accommodate some very short scenarios.

In the Heights performances by the Countryside Community Theatre continue at the absolutely beautiful North Scott High School Fine Arts Auditorium located at 200 South First Street in Eldridge, Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6 at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, July 7 at 2:00 p.m.

A Post Script: Condolences go out to the family and friends of Matt Moody, a titan of our local community theatre scene, who unexpectedly passed away over the weekend. He will be sorely missed.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.