Published On: Thu, Aug 1st, 2013

Cultural Arts Playhouse in Long Island Presents In The Heights

DSC_0131 (1)I’ll begin this post by stating upfront that I am not a bonafide theatre critic. In fact my overall experience has been mostly independent off-Broadway productions along the vein of “Quien Mato a Hector Lavoe” and “La Lupe.” This is the opinion of a  Latino male that has not had exposure to “traditional Broadway,” if there is such a thing.  I have, however experienced Broadway shows thru my very talented daughter “La Jibarita” who has been in many local productions in Long Island like Les Miserables, Rent, Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan. In a nutshell, I love Broadway thru my daughter…

She was recently cast in the Cultural Arts Playhouse rendition of  Tony Award Winning Musical “In The Heights” as part of the ensemble cast. I was excited to see her do this as the story of the show echoes very closely what my neighborhood’s dynamic was growing up in Brooklyn. I did not grow up in the heights, but I grew up in the heights if you know what I mean.

If you did not catch it on Broadway, this is what the show is about.


Abuelita Claudia… RIP

In the Heights centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home. (source:

I saw the show on opening weekend and I was blown away. I loved the fact that the cast was so diverse (and NOT Latino) the fact that a show like this can be so mainstream makes me incredibly proud of Lin Manuel Miranda’s accomplishment to create something that is bigger than just ethnicity, instead weaves universal themes like family and music into a great story.


The cast of In The Height’s pauses to help stop diabetes – #PorTuFamilia

All I have to say is WOW, what a cast. The show was so high energy and the kids from CAP made you fall in love with the characters as they took you thru the hip hop / latin flavored score. The choreography was very well put together and brought the “heights” colorful set to life. 

My favorite performances were as follows…

Jonathan Ghandforoush as Usnavi – All I have to say is that besides looking a whole lot like Lin Manuel, this kid put his heart and soul into his performance. He never missed a beat in his hip hop narrative. I found out afterward that he was actually the understudy… again great job Jonathan! I will be going again closing night again to see George Anganostakos who I found out is actually from Washington Heights… it will be interesting to see how that translates on stage.

Elisa Galindez as Vanessa – A incredible performance as she took Vanessa through the emotional roller coaster of the story and showed that she is a triple threat… the acting, the singing and the dancing were all superb. I wonder if she is really from the heights…hmmm?

Jojo Minasi as Sonny – I have seen Jojo perform in many other shows in the past 5 years and this kid is an amazing talent. His interpretation of Sonny was very energetic and really supported Usnavi in a big way.

The magic collaboration of Nina (Lauren Laureano) and Benny (Justin McAteer) was very intense and the vocal talents of these two (separately and collectively) was nothing short of amazing. I especially liked their rendition of  “When The Sun Goes Down”. These two steal the show several times before the curtain drops. By the way… I hear that Justin, affectionately as JMac even has his own hashtag twitter trend.

My absolute favorite character (both on Broadway and at this show) was Abuelita Claudia, played by Taneisha Corbin (who when I saw outside the show, I thought for a moment was actually an older woman) Her performances of Paciencia y Fe and Hundreds of Stories made me think about my grandmother… she also had great Spanish skills for a non-Latina.  She got a standing ovation by me mid play (i think I ticked off the people behind me)

Other memorable  performances included Lauren Baez as Camilla Rosario and Michele Belio as Carla.

Oh… and my daughter was awesome in the ensemble pieces… it never matters how many kids are singing with her, I can always hear her voice above all else. I am also very happy that our Salsa classes at Dance Atlantic paid off… my girl has skills.

If you missed it on Broadway, make sure you do not make the same mistake twice visit the CAP website and buy tickets for this weekend’s show… the show closes August 11, 2013



George Torres
The Urban Jibaro
Cultivando Cultura since 1997…
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Follow me on Twitter… @UrbanJibaro  and support the  #PorTuFamilia movement



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Cultural Arts Playhouse in Long Island Presents In The Heights